If you’re distressed to see stretch marks suddenly snaking their way across your pregnant belly, take solace in the fact that you are not alone. At least half of all expecting mothers get them. Stretch marks, or striae, occur in the dermis, the elastic middle layer of your skin that allows it to retain its shape. The stretching of your skin during pregnancy causes the dermis to break down, leaving streaks or cracks known as stretch marks.
Most women develop stretch marks towards the end of their pregnancy as the skin on their belly stretches the most to accommodate the growing baby. They usually appear on the abdomen, hips, breasts, or any area of skin that is stretching or growing quickly.
Whether you develop stretch marks or not depends on the extent to which your skin is stretched, how fast, and on good old genetics. In other words, you can control only so much of what goes on in your own dermis, so don’t be surprised if your best efforts to prevent stretch marks still leave you flaunting the “love marks” of pregnancy.
To reduce the strain on your skin, experts suggest gaining no more than the recommended weight and gaining it slowly throughout your pregnancy. There are also a number of lotions and creams your physician can recommend to help control stretch marks, so we recommend you contact him or her before your midsection begins to grow.
Healthy and well-hydrated skin also resists stretch marks more effectively, so drink plenty of water and maintain a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy. Foods rich in zinc and vitamins A and C are good for your skin; while those that dehydrate, such as caffeine, can increase your chances of developing stretch marks.
If you do develop stretch marks, they will gradually fade several months after you give birth, although they will not disappear completely. Laser treatment can help diminish their appearance further, so if you want to take your stretch-mark elimination program to the next level, we recommend you see a dermatologist.