Stretch marks are yet another one of those common, not-so-fun side effects of pregnancy. Because they are partially a hereditary trait, they may not be completely preventable, but there are certainly things you can do to help minimize them or reduce your chances of getting them.
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are a form of scarring and appear as bands or streaks on the skin that are red, pink, or purple in color. You can find stretch marks on many parts of your body, including your abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, and lower back.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are basically scars – that is, damage to the skin. During pregnancy and other periods of rapid weight gain, the body’s skin can be stretched beyond its elastic capacity. When this happens, the upper layer of the skin (epidermis) expands rapidly, while the lower layer of the skin (dermis), is challenged to expand as quickly. Consequently, the dermis then “tears,” which causes stretch marks. Rapid weight gain isn’t the only cause of stretch marks though. Your genes play a large role as well. Stretch marks can pass from generation to generation. Approximately 80% of pregnant women experience stretch marks.
How to Help Prevent or Minimize Stretch Marks
The keys to managing these all comes down to managing your belly size and improving your skin’s elasticity. Here are 5 things you can do to help accomplish these:
- Strengthen your “Core Canister”: When the deep core muscles of your Core Canister are strong and functioning properly, this can actually help your belly stay smaller, thereby reducing the amount your skin stretches. Read this piece to learn the #1 move to master to strengthen your core canister.
- Stay physically active: Regular physical activity not only helps you stay within the healthy weight gain guidelines, but also helps improve circulation to increase your skin’s elasticity making it better able to stretch as your belly grows. This doesn’t have to require hitting the gym everyday either. Start with simply increasing your daily activity with these “N.E.A.T strategies.”
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Your skin needs to be hydrated for optimal elasticity. Your body already needs more water during pregnancy than when you are not pregnant due to increased demands by the fetus, so drink up to ensure your skin gets enough too.
- Consider an Omega Fatty Acid supplement. Healthy fats like Omega’s have anti-inflammatory properties that help improve your skin’s elasticity and overall appearance (not to mention supporting your baby’s brain and immune system development).
- Moisturize daily. Not only does moisturizing help prevent, or mitigate, the appearance of stretch marks, but it can also ward off itchiness in your skin. When it comes to choosing a moisturizer, look for products with ingredients like Vitamin E, Cocoa Butters, Grapeseed Oil, or Sodium hyaluronate.
Looking for More Support?
If you are pregnant and looking for more guidance in safe and effective exercise, check out our Prenatal Training Programs & Services.
If you are a health and fitness professional interested in learning more about working with pre & postnatal clients, explore our Pre/Postnatal Professional Education.