Rapid weight changes within a short time frame, such as putting on 10kg to 15kg during pregnancy may tear the elastic supportive tissue beneath the skin and result in what we refer to as “stretch marks”. They appear as small streaks in pink, red purple or brown which may fade 6 to 12 months after childbirth and become less noticeable. Stretch marks appear most often on the abdomen as early as 13 weeks up until later stages in pregnancy when the belly is rapidly expanding to accommodate the growing baby. Some women also get them on the buttock, thing, hip and breast areas. Dependent on genetics, not all woman will get stretch marks. Very likely, if your mother or sister have stretch marks during their pregnancy, so will you. However, you may try to avoid getting stretch marks with the following tips!
Choose foods rich in antioxidants, such as spinach, blueberries and strawberries to help nourish and protect your skin. Eat nuts, seeds, avocados and broccoli, which contain Vitamin E which also protects skin cell membranes. Foods containing omega 3s, such as fish, fish oil, walnuts, eggs and oysters will help keep cell membranes healthy as well as make your skin glow. Continue to eat such nourishing foods during your confinement period. Do not go on a “crash diet” but instead, lose weight gradually as your skin needs time to recover from the stretching it did during the pregnancy.
Detoxify your body with at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your skin cells plump and healthy. To add some variety, choose drinks such as herbal tea (without caffeine) or consume fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, honeydew and bell peppers. Keep your skin healthy and it is much more likely to bounce back from the stress caused by the stretching.
Watch Your Weight
While it is important to remember that you are eating more for your growing baby, keep note to avoid “eating for two”. You will not need additional calories in your first trimester unless you have been classified as underweight by your doctor. Choosing more nutritious foods during this stage of your baby’s development would suffice. Add an additional 300 calories each day during your second trimester and an extra 500 calories per day during your third trimester unless you are having twins (or more babies) or as diagnosed by your doctor. Always consult your doctor for your specific requirement as every woman and pregnancy is different.
It is important to check with your doctor before starting on any exercise regime. Do light exercise such as walking, swimming and yoga from the second trimester to prevent too much weight gain. Exercise not only helps with your body’s circulation, but also retains skin elasticity. After the delivery of your baby, you can increase the intensity of the exercise to lose the weight gained during the pregnancy. Exercise such as strength training for your muscles will help tighten your skin. Cardio workouts will improve the body’s circulation.
Use a moisturiser to hydrate the skin, especially on the belly and buttock areas as well as any other areas you may find stretch marks. Choose a moisturiser specially made for pregnant women as these are usually made with cocoa butter, shea butter or another type of natural oil as regular lotions may not be able to penetrate the skin deep enough to assist with stretch marks. Use at least once a day after bathing to speed up the process of “healing” the stretch marks. Apply more moisturiser on areas that itch, as this is a sign that this is where the skin is being stretched.
After your childbirth, topical medications such as retinoic acid cream or glycolic acid which usually require a doctor’s prescription can be requested to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Do not that retinoic acid cream is not safe to be used during pregnancy and if you are breastfeeding. You may also wish to seek laser treatments which can also help to restore the skin’s elasticity and help with any pigmentation so that colour on these areas can better match the rest of your skin. Always check with your doctor prior to any treatment you wish to embark on!