Stretch marks are two words that spread fear amongst pregnant women.
Let’s face it, while appearance maybe a superficial worry, none of us WANT stretch marks.
Bio-Oil is somewhat of an authority on the subject, and have a wealth of information about them. I’ve been using it on my belly throughout my pregnancy, and haven’t developed a single stretch mark. I have, however developed them on the tops of my legs, where I didn’t apply the oil, as it just didn’t occur to me that I might get them there. As annoying as this is, it just strengthens the case for using Bio-Oil through out and all over – learn from my mistakes!
Here are a few facts and tips from Bio-Oil for keeping your body free from (or greatly minimize the number of) stretch marks during pregnancy.
What causes them?
The skin adapts to continuous movement of the body by expanding and contracting, but during pregnancy it may have insufficient time to adjust, causing internal tears in the skin tissue. When these tears repair themselves they form scars that we know as stretch marks.
A second factor causing stretch marks, which is still a subject of debate, involves the priming of the skin by increased levels of hormones. These hormones attract more water into the skin, which relaxes the bonds between the collagen fibres. This makes it easier for the skin tissue to tear when it is stretched, causing stretch marks to form.
When do they form?
While stretch marks generally become visible in the last trimester, some women will start to see them forming as soon as their bellies start growing. Most lighter skinned women tend to develop pinkish ones, whereas darker skinned women tend to have stretch marks that are lighter than the surrounding skin.
What are the stages in the development of stretch marks?
Stage 1: Early stretch marks will appear pale in colour, and may also be itchy. The skin immediately around the mark may look flattened and thin.
Stage 2: Gradually, they will enlarge in length and width and become darker and more pronounced.
Stage 3: Once they have matured and when the skin is no longer under tension, they will start to fade and become paler. They may also appear slightly depressed and irregular in shape or length.
Do all pregnant women get them?
It is estimated that up to 90% of women are prone to developing stretch marks during pregnancy. In studies conducted over the year, the likelihood of developing the has been found to vary according to:
Stretch marks tend to be associated with darker skinned women, the reason for which is unknown.
Interestingly, it has been found that as you get older, you are less likely to develop stretch marks.
Family and personal history
In a study conducted in 2004, it was found that of the women who developed stretch marks in pregnancy, over half had mothers with stretch marks, In the same study it was found that 81% of the women with pregnancy stretch marks had pre-existing ones.
Stretch marks depend on the extent to which the skin expands. As such it is thought that rapid or excessive weight gain can exacerbate their formation. It is, however, better during pregnancy to focus on eating correct healthy foods than to worry about how much weight you are putting on.
Maintaining a nutritious diet and keeping skin well-hydrated will ensure that it is better able to stretch during pregnancy.
Where do they form?
Most women develop them on their abdomen in pregnancy, however it is also common to get them on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back and buttocks. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most likely to appear in places where larger amounts of fats are stored (like my thighs!!!!!!)
What can be done to prevent them?
The best defence against them is to ensure that the skin maintains it maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy. This is achieved by keeping the skin well-hydrated and supple at all times.
Collagen and elastin fibres in the skin are necessary to keep the rapidly growing skin taut, and the stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave resulting stretch marks. It therefore makes sense to eat foods that are rich in Vitamin E and C, zinc and silica, which help to form collagen. Vitamin C in particular is an important antioxidant that helps protect tissue from damage. Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin) are also said to help promote and maintain healthy skin. In addition, drinking sufficient water is seen to be essential in order to help strengthen and renew skin.
In addition to boosting energy levels, reducing mood swings, improving sleep patterns and enhancing one’s overall self-image, exercise can also help prevent stretch marks forming. It improves circulation, which keeps the skin elastic and more able to stretch as it grows. This improved circulation also reduces the possibility of varicose veins and swollen ankles during pregnancy. Try low impact exercises like swimming, walking, cycling and yoga.
Keeping skin supple
In addition to ensuring you keep your skin supple through eating the right foods and getting enough exercise, you should use a topically applied product that is specifically formulated to maximise the skin’s elasticity (like Bio-Oil). By applying it twice daily throughout pregnancy, your skin will remain well-hydrated and better able to stretch.
Bio-Oil Tissue Oil is available at leading retailers in 60ml (R74.95), 125ml (R99.95) and 200ml (R179.96).