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Preventing stretch marks during pregnancy CAN BE DONE with the right techniques and the right products. Just because you are pregnant does not mean stretch marks are inevitable. Thanks to my pregnant belly skin care routine I have ZERO stretch marks! With a little commitment and a nudge in the right direction, your belly just may come out of this unscathed.
When I first found out I was pregnant, one of the many thoughts that came rushing through my head was: Oh no! Am I going to get stretch marks?! And: Please don’t let me throw up!
Shallow. . . But true. Don’t judge me.
I know what you are thinking, will these techniques really work? If you follow my instructions and genetics are on your side, they will definitely help to prevent them. Even if genetics aren’t on your side, it’s certainly worth implementing these tips to significantly minimize them.
Check out my post on What No One Tells You About Pregnancy to find out more on EVERYTHING pregnancy related!
How do stretch marks form?
Skin is naturally pretty stretchy due to the collagen that makes up our skin’s structure. When it is stretched too quickly or too much (i.e. pregnancy), it does not give the collagen enough time to do its job, causing ‘breaks’ in the skin’s connective.
These ‘breaks’ are what we see as the dreaded stretch mark. Stretch marks are considered scars. And we all know scars do not like to go away. So prevention is key!
One common sign that stretch marks may be occurring is ITCHING!
There is an increase in blood supply during pregnancy that can cause mild, generalized itching which is usually normal. That’s not the type of itching I’m talking about.
Itching from a condition called obstetric cholestasis (OC) is not normal. OC is where the liver is not clearing the bile salts from your bloodstream, making you feel itchy, usually on the palms and soles of feet, but can be generalized (usually happens towards the later stages of pregnancy). If you are experiencing this, contact your OB right away.
But itching on just the belly or hips is the type of itching I’m referring to. This is BAD! Itching on only these areas could mean your skin is stretching! Being itchy in growing areas is a telltale sign that your skin may be stretching too fast for the collagen to keep up, especially during the last few months when belly growth is the most rapid.
Whatever you do, DO NOT SCRATCH!
Follow these 10 simple steps for preventing those dreaded stretch marks during pregnancy (or at least greatly minimize them):
1. Gain weight as SLOWLY as possible:
I know, I know! UGH! But this is the time when we could eat for two! Sorry, no. A gradual increase in caloric intake AND weight gain is ideal.
You are trying to prevent your deeper layers of skin from breaking apart, that is what causes stretch marks. A slow weight gain may give the skin enough time to stretch slow enough and regenerate enough to not cause it to ‘break’.
2. Don’t gain too much weight:
NO increase in calories is needed in the first trimester if you are starting at a normal weight. That means the first 12 weeks of pregnancy there is no need for any weight gain! Of course this is only if you are at least normal weight (normal BMI).
Approximately 300-400 daily calorie increase is needed for the second trimester, and 400-500 daily calorie increase for the third trimester. That’s it. 500 calories is practically nothing in my book. It’s the equivalent of one slice of cheesecake, or just a side of fries, or an extra serving of lasagna.
Doctors recommend a 25-35 pound weight gain in total.
I know, it sucks. This can be quite difficult with the intense cravings you experience while pregnant. But you can still give into your cravings, just with some moderation.
Remember, if you can gain just the right amount of weight slowly enough, then you will help prevent stretch marks.
3. Eat collagen rich foods:
Collagen is one of the building blocks to your skin’s structure and gives skin it’s flexibility. It gives skin that smoothness and bounce back we all admire about youthful skin. Collagen plays a vital role in regeneration and healing. So it is imperative that we take in as much as possible to help with preventing stretch marks during pregnancy.
Luckily, I love oxtail soup (chock-full of collagen)! I ate quite a bit of it during my first pregnancy, and while breast feeding. Thanks Mom!
If you don’t like or have difficulty getting your hands on collagen rich foods, don’t you fear, there are plenty of products out there that will more than cover your body’s requirements for collagen.
This vanilla Keto Collagen Powder is low carb, and is pretty darn good. Dissolves best with a quick whirl in a blender or magic bullet. There is a chocolate version if that’s more your cup of tea. I liked it mixed with hot milk like a mock hot chocolate. The also have a salted caramel one too!
If you love to cook and have a pressure cooker or a crock pot, this recipe for bone broth is easy to prepare and yummy!
4. Stay hydrated:
You have to stay moisturized on the inside as well as the outside. Feeling thirsty means you are already dehydrated! If you can stay hydrated your skin stays more supple, helping to prevent stretch marks during your pregnancy.
This can be a challenge to say the least if you can’t keep anything down (thanks a lot, morning sickness). But try to find ways to prevent vomiting during pregnancy. Pay attention to your changing body and adjust so that you can keep yourself hydrated and nourished for you and your growing baby.
One key thing to keep in mind when you are trying to stay hydrated is that it is all about consistency, not so much large quantities. How I would explain it to my patients in the emergency room that needed to stay hydrated was: keep a bottle of water with you at all times and take a sip every few minutes. Think of it more like IV fluids that slowly drip into your veins. If you are able to drink a lot at a time, great! But if you can’t, then this slow, consistent technique works just as well (if not better).
You will be done with a bottle and be moving onto the next one before you know it!
If you really can’t stand plain water, infuse it with some fruit or veggies. I really enjoy the refreshing taste of cucumber and lemon, or the fragrant, slightly sweet taste of strawberries and mint.
Be sure to wash everything really well before adding them to your water for infusions. Pregnancy tends to lower your immune system, making you more prone to getting sick from something you ingest.
So, I am a little extreme with my exfoliation methods. I use a Korean body scrubber in my skin care regimen. I use this amazing contraption every day in the shower! It works incredibly well! But it can kinda hurt if you’re not used to it.
Exfoliation helps prevent stretch marks by removing the top layer of dry skin to allow for better absorption of moisturizers. It also helps to increase circulation, which brings vital nutrients to the skin.
If the Korean body scrubber is too intense for you, try a shower glove. These work great too and feels more like a moderate intensity exfoliation.
Another way to exfoliate is to use a dry body brush. Not only does it help with exfoliation and circulation, it feels absolutely amazing and does wonders for your skin. Just be gentle, otherwise it may lead to tiny micro-cuts that leave the skin prone to infection and dehydration. It is best to take a shower right after your dry brushing session.
6. Massage oils to stretch mark prone areas:
I used an oil mixture of half Bio-Oil and half Trader Joe’s Vitamin E Oil after every shower. Make sure your skin is all dried off after the shower otherwise the moisturizer is only going to slip right off.
I massaged the oils only to stretch mark prone areas (tummy, breasts, hips, buttocks, and thighs). Massage and rub the oil in for at least a few minutes. Massage, rub, and work it into your skin. Massaging oil into your skin does double duty by moisturizing and increasing circulation.
I admit, for my second pregnancy I had WAY less time to do this part with a toddler following me around and impatiently waiting for me to finish whatever I was doing so we could play. So I reduced the massage time from 5 mins to 1 min (okay, more like 30 seconds). Still worked. You just do the best you can.
Massaging increases circulation and is touted for being able to stimulate collagen production! YAY! See if you can enlist your significant other to help you with this part. It’s a great way for them to stay connected to you and build a connection with the growing baby inside you.
7. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize:
I used Cetaphil Lotion (the one in the tub) after my oil massage every time I took a shower or bath. It is unscented, thick but absorbs well, and does not leave a greasy heavy feeling.
I am not really a fan of cocoa butter, I don’t like the smell. But I couldn’t not use it since it is supposed to be so good for preventing stretch marks. I mixed just a squirt of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks into some of my Cetaphil lotion. I applied this mixture just to any part of my body that was getting bigger. This way the smell was more neutralized.
All this oiling and lotioning was a such chore for me (I don’t really like it in the first place- its hard work and takes way too long). Let’s just say that before I was pregnant my go-to lotion was the ‘in shower’ lotion (the ones for lazies like me). So if I can do it, so can you!
With the rapid growth of a pregnant belly, your skin can become dry and itchy. Do not scratch! I cannot stress the importance of keeping your skin moisturized to prevent stretch marks.
When you feel itchy, instead of scratching, just reach for some moisturizer. Keep moisturizer in a conveniently close location. Every time you get tempted to scratch, moisturize instead.
8. Insulate your moisturizer:
Even after all that work moisturizing your skin, sometimes it just seems to rub off with your clothing. One way to keep that moisture on your belly without having to go to the extreme of saran wrapping your pregnant self is to use a belly band.
These bands are supposed to be used for extending the use of your pre-pregnancy pants and shirts. But I found them to be super useful in keeping my moisturizer where it is supposed to be in the most comfortable way possible (and I am ALL about comfort).
The belly band I used is easy to slip on and off, machine washable, not too hot, and like I said, really comfortable. Just slide one on after oiling and moisturizing and before putting on your clothes. It keeps your clothes from getting greasy and helps the moisturizers stay put.
9. Use a Humidifier:
I live in sunny Southern California in an area where humidity is on the low to non-existent side. If you live somewhere that is super humid, maybe skip this one. I use a cool mist humidifier as part of my skincare regimen to keep my skin hydrated (even when I’m not pregnant). It’s another way to keep my skin moisturized without too much effort on my part.
I prefer the AUKEY Whole House Humidifier. I’m in love with it. It’s pretty, doesn’t take up much room, is quiet, very misty, has a dial with a wide range to adjust the mist settings, doesn’t soak the floor underneath it, and is relatively easy to clean and fill. But unfortunately I can’t find it anywhere now!
The less expensive ones work just as well (moisturizing), only the maintenance and cleanup can be a bit more difficult (and I am all about quality and ease of use). The first cool mist humidifier I owned was not too bad. But it was kinda loud and bright (lit up when on, not conducive to sleeping). Also, sometimes the floor underneath it would be wet in the morning. Frustrating.
Full disclosure. This happens to be last on my list because I really didn’t do much of it. So I cannot personally attest to the efficacy of this one. But I did work 12 hour shifts in the emergency room and was on my feet most of the shift. But that’s not the kind of exercise I’m referring to.
I’m talking about the kind of exercise that makes you sweat a bit: jogging, sports, yoga, etc.
Research shows that exercise helps to clear the skin and body of toxins and brings moisture through the skin to hydrate it (Don’t forget to replenish your fluids when you exercise). The movements and stretching from exercise helps keep your skin limber and flexible.
Looking back now I wish I would have exercised more. I think it would have made labor a whole lot easier and would have helped the baby to progress faster for a quicker delivery. That would have made all the difference in the world!
The thing about GENETICS and preventing stretch marks during pregnancy:
Unfortunately, some people just have a genetic predisposition to stretch marks. Take a look at your mom, if she has stretch marks, you may end up with them. If she doesn’t have stretch marks, chances are you may not get them.
My Mom gained a lot of weight from being pregnant with me (she is a tiny individual) and didn’t get any stretch marks. When she was pregnant with my sister, she didn’t gain as much, and still no stretch marks. If genetics are on your side, it make preventing stretch marks way easier. But luckily, genetics is not the only factor. Working with the techniques in this post will help you prevent those undesirable stretch marks.
What if preventing stretch marks during pregnancy doesn’t work for me?
If you end up being one of the many people that do get stretch marks, embrace them. Embrace your ‘battle scars’ like a badge of honor. You are doing what no man can ever do. You are bringing precious life into this world with nothing but the miracle that is your body and those stretch marks are the proof.
One of my good friends has stretch marks from her babies and she is the most beautiful person I know (inside and out). Her confidence steals the spotlight to where you can barely remember that you even saw a stretch mark on her.
But if you still can’t quite wrap your mind around embracing them, then don’t fret. There are laser treatments that work well at diminishing and sometimes removing most stretch marks, as long as you catch them when they are still dark and purple in color and of course are not pregnant anymore.
Remember. . .
Stretch marks or not, remember to love every bit of your new self. Turning into Mommy can be so HARD. You are physically, mentally, and emotionally changing into a completely different person in a relatively short time period. All the while expected to care for a brand new human that can’t do anything for themselves.
The process can put a strain on everything you have gotten used to about your life thus far. But hopefully this post on preventing stretch marks during pregnancy will help make the road to Turning into Mommy just a little smoother for you.
What do you use for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy? Email me or leave me a comment below!
Also, there are so many more things about pregnancy that people don’t tell you. Find out what they are in my post What No One Tells You About Pregnancy! so you can be super prepared.
All the love!
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