Just because stretch marks aren’t life-threatening doesn’t mean your fear or annoyance of them is unfounded. In our body-conscious world, the stress caused by the possibility of a bad case of stretch marks is enough to cause emotional and psychological distress in some cases.
And if you’re pregnant or planning to be, you may be feeling ashamed to be thinking of yourself at a time when you think you should be focusing on everything important to your baby.
But let’s just pause for a moment, take a breath and, yes, let’s think about you for a bit.
Right now you may feel it is your job to devote 100 percent of your time to your baby, but I hope you agree that being comfortable and confident in your own skin will make your pregnancy that much easier. The Ancient Egyptians even took the time to try out different treatments on their stretch marks, and they built the pyramids for heaven’s sake!
After reading this guide on how to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, you’ll see that stretch marks, while not always preventable, are likely able to be managed without a huge time commitment on your part.
The first thing to know is that pregnancy-related stretch marks, aka striae gravidarum in medical terminology, are incredibly common (despite what you may see on Instagram or in magazines). Somewhere between 55 and 90 percent of pregnancies result in some form of stretch marks.
The marks generally appear by the third trimester, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and whether you get them at all is largely dependent on your genetics. Did your mother get them when she was pregnant with you? If so, you’re likely to be susceptible to getting them yourself.
Despite that, there are ways to keep their formation to a minimum.
How Long Do Stretch Marks Take to Fade?
Over time, stretch marks fade and become less noticeable. You can expect this to happen about six to 12 months after childbirth.
The marks won’t disappear completely, but they are generally less apparent after this point.
Does Anything Actually Prevent Stretch Marks?
Because stretch marks do not go away, and it can take time for them to become less noticeable, you may be interested in what you can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
While there is no cure-all for stretch marks, there are certain products and actions that can be taken to help you learn how to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy as best you can.
1. Keep a Healthy Weight
Everyone gains weight during pregnancy, as you are supposed to, but controlling how much weight you put on can be managed to reduce stretch marks. Rapid weight gain is one of the leading causes of stretch marks, during pregnancy and outside of it, which is why this is so important.
It is recommended to gain weight as steadily and slowly as possible, and is something you should talk to your doctor about. The weight you gain is beneficial to your growing baby, but it’s possible to manage it so that the baby gets the nutrition she needs and that you can prevent lasting stretch marks.
How much weight you should expect gain will depend on your height to weight ratio, or your body mass. The Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has a handy medically reviewed website to help you figure out the recommended amount of weight to gain.
Only about one-third of people gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, notes the CDC, so a little extra awareness now could reap future benefits in treating stretch marks during pregnancy.
2. Use Cream or Moisturizer
Before we go too far into creams and routines, you should know that there is no product that has been medically reviewed to prevent stretch marks entirely and that you should be wary of any product that promises so with 100% certainty.
However, many products are formulated to keep skin supple and help reduce the risk of forming stretch marks in the first place. Here, preventative measures are key.
Stretch mark cream is most effective when used as a proactive measure. Its primary benefit is to promote stretchy skin elasticity with intense moisturization. Proper conditioning lowers the chance of skin tears that leave visible stretch marks. You will also want to prevent your skin from firming, so be sure to prevent sunburns as well.
Before we go on, keep in mind: there are other topical creams to better reduce itching that occurs when skin stretches, so you may want to find an anti-itch cream as well.
3. Eat a Vegetable and Fruit Rich Diet
First things first, speak to your doctor about your diet and the nutrition that you should be getting.
If you are pregnant with one baby, you will want to eat 300 extra calories a day. That number increases with twins and triplets. But the idea isn’t to just fill up on bread. You will want to find a balance between a nutrient-rich diet that supports the healthy growth of your baby and the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Specific foods and that help prevent stretch marks have not been proven, unfortunately. What we do know, however, is that vitamins A, C, E, and zinc are great for the skin. Eating fruits and vegetables gets you these nutrients and remains one of the most tried and true medically reviewed ways of maintaining youthful appearing skin.
4. Use Vitamin C for Stretch Marks
You will want to get a lot of vitamin C during pregnancy, and not from supplements but from plenty of fruits and vegetables like oranges, green peppers, papaya, watermelon and more.
One 2011 study in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research found that low vitamin C levels were more associated with stretch marks than even the well-established genetic link.
5. Stay Hydrated
Skin that is dry is more likely to develop stretch marks, so drink water every day and stay hydrated. This is good advice at any time, and that applies to pregnancy.
Start Stretch Mark Prevention Early
If you are pregnant and have stretch marks, those marks will fade with time. Everyone worries about their body and what stretch marks may do to it, even the Ancient Egyptians, as we learned about earlier.
Although few studies have confirmed stretch mark prevention treatments, according to this medically reviewed research roundup in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, the use of Centella asiatica extract, hyaluronic acid, and daily massages have shown some promising results, and keep in mind the rest of the information above.
If you’re due to be pregnant soon, speak to your doctor about the above methods and more, see what works with your lifestyle, and always remember: drink water every day.