You wake up, just like you have every other day during your pregnancy. You look in the mirror and notice unusual red streaks at the base of your baby bump.
Do not be alarmed. Chances are you have stretch marks. These are a common occurrence during pregnancy.
What are stretch marks?
During pregnancy your body will grow at faster rate than normal. Unfortunately the skin on most expecting mothers cannot keep up with this explosive growth. Your rapidly expanding body places tremendous pressure on your skin.
This pressure from your rapidly expanding body could not come at a worse time. Hormonal factors associated with pregnancy reduce the formation of the elastic fibres and collagen in the lower layers of skin.
Your expanding body pushes against these weakened elastic fibres so much that something has to give. And it does. The elastic fibres break, leading to stretch marks.
Stretch marks from pregnancy are completely natural and affects the majority of women. Estimates place the figure at between 75% and 90% of women going through pregnancy will experience stretch marks. Stretch marks generally appear in the final few weeks of pregnancy.
Stretch often shock new mothers as they are not commonly portrayed in the media (Unless they are trying to sell you a miracle stretch mark curing cream that is). Those beautiful stretch mark free pregnant women you see on television have very likely been digitally retouched and are definitely not the norm.
Who is most at risk of stretch marks?
Mothers to be who put on a huge amount of weight or are blessed with more than one baby are most at risk of developing stretch marks.
Women who are younger when they fall pregnant, particularly teenagers, are more likely to develop stretch marks than those who fall pregnant older.
Some woman will have already experienced stretch marks on their skin prior to becoming pregnant. These woman are at much higher risk of stretch marks appearing during pregnancy.
Some expectant mothers will have a genetic predisposition to stretch marks. Check to see if your mother or grandmother had stretch marks during pregnancy. If so, you are at an increased risk of stretch marks regardless of body size and age.
How can I identify stretch marks?
The visible signs of stretch marks will vary from mother to mother. How your stretch marks appear will depend on skin tone and amount of weight put on.
During pregnancy stretch marks will appear as pink or red or reddish-brown lines. This is actually the blood vessels showing through the tearing of the middle layer of skin.
These lines will appear in the areas including and surround your belly such as your legs, thighs and hips, however, they can also appear on other parts of your body.
Can I prevent stretch marks?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent stretch marks, any product claiming to do so are just after your money. These products are applied to the external layer of skin but it is the layer underneath which stretches.
Despite this there are measures you can take to limit your risk of stretch marks appearing during pregnancy. Unfortunately if you are reading this
Watch the cravings: During pregnancy you will crave unusual foods which may not normally be part of your regular diet. You will have to practice self control in order to avoid the unhealthy cravings. Foods which easily turn into body fat will place further pressure on your skin.
A healthy balanced diet has the added bonus of making sure your baby receives nutrients vital for healthy growth. If you avoid all other measures to reduce the risk of stretch marks, definitely try to stick this one out.
Stay hydrated: Although you should already be doing this anyway, drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day can lower your risk of stretch marks. Water helps flush toxins out of your body and may assist in aiding your skin to bounce back after the stress caused by stretching.
Stay fit: While you will not be able your regular exercises, it is still important that you stay in shape during pregnancy. Keeping body fat down may lower your risk of stretch marks appearing in the later stages of pregnancy.
If you are guilty of straying from a healthy lifestyle perhaps avoiding stretch marks will be the motivation you need to stick to it.
Coconut up: Many mothers report having success with their stretch marks through the use of coconut oil. Mothers reportedly applied coconut oil to any area prone to stretch marks daily. The process was started at the beginning go pregnancy.
Coconut oil contains many properties that make it a great moisturizer. Just make sure that the coconut oil you are using is organic and natural like this one. Avoid coconut oils that have been mixed with fragrances and other chemicals as these additives can reduce the overall effectiveness.
Are there any medical risks?
No. Stretch marks are superficial. While they may look unsightly, they have not been proven to negatively impact on your overall health.