Your Pregnancy

What’s The Deal With Post-Pregnancy Stretch Marks?

Why they happen and what you can do about them.
Rachel Hiser

If you’re like most moms, one of your major concerns after giving birth is to reform your body to its pre-baby status.

Even a lovely pregnancy glow can’t compensate for weight gain, swollen feet, acne, and the host of physical alterations caused by carrying a child. You want your body back.

In the three months since my baby was born, exercise has helped me shed some of the extra pounds, and my feet and calves naturally returned to their normal(ish) size. But the thing that isn’t going away are my stretch marks – unsightly red streaks across my belly and butt.

While everything else is returning to normal, these marks stubbornly cling to my skin.

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What can I do about them? What can anyone do about them?

After first some research, I was dismayed to learn that there is no scientifically proven method for completely removing stretch marks. However, don’t lose hope.

There are many different types of treatments and procedures that many moms have used to successfully battle their stretch marks and be at peace with their bodies.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks appear when your skin expands quickly and tears the inner layers of the skin, causing pink, red, or purple streaks. As your stomach grows to fit your baby, your skin tries to keep up, and though it’s elastic, during pregnancy skin often grows stretches too far too fast.

They can also be caused by hormonal changes. Where you get them and how severe they appear cannot be predicted.

Most women find stretch marks on their stomach, but they can also appear on your hips, butt, thighs, and breasts. They are a purely cosmetic issue – not something that affects you physically. For most women, they will fade throughout the first year.

Stretch marks sometimes have a raised ridge that you’ll feel with your fingers and can be itchy and sore. But remember that they are not dangerous.

Risk factors.

While it’s not an exact science determining which women will get stretch marks, there are some factors that make you more susceptible.

  • Genetics – If your mom has stretch marks you’re likely to as well.
  • Baby Size – You need more room to carry a big baby or multiples, so your skin expands more than normal.
  • Excess Amniotic Fluid – This is the fluid that surrounds your baby and carrying excess amounts can be caused by a host of issues.

While these factors could increase your odds, there’s no sure way to predict if you’ll get stretch marks.

Fifty percent of women do. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent stretch marks. However, you can tip the scales in your favor by drinking plenty of water, moisturizing your skin, and trying to gain weight slowly.

Treating stretch marks.

There are many different ways moms try to remove stretch marks, from lemon juice to honey to essential oils. But while many products claim to be miracle workers – science and researchers agree there is very little proven results from such measures.

If you are concerned about your stretch marks, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery recommends treating them as early as possible for the best results. Here are some recommended treatments:

  • Retin-A cream – It’s most effective on newer, red marks, but steer clear of it if you’re pregnant or nursing. Retin-A firms up the broken fibers of your skin that got stretched too far. As a topical choice, it may help, but won’t completely remove your marks.
  • Microdermabrasion – A procedure in which tiny crystals are blasted against your skin to remove the top layer and stimulate collagen production and it a good option for treating older stretch marks.
  • Laser Treatment – Laser treatment works by stimulating collagen and elastin in your skin, which activates new healthy skin cells. The procedure speeds up the fading process and smooths out your skin. While you may have some redness or swelling, recovery from this type of procedure is fast.
  • Surgery – This is a serious procedure similar to a stomach tuck. But as stretch marks are considered a cosmetic problem, most procedures are not covered by insurance. You should talk with your surgeon to think through the complete list of options.

If you are considering surgery, there are many things to consider before scheduling an operation. What are the risks? Which procedure is right for you? What are the costs? How long is recovery? For a complete list of questions, visit the American Society for Dermatological Surgery website.

Not willing to undergo surgery? Don’t worry, stretch marks usually fade and become less noticeable about six to 12 months after childbirth. They become lighter and blend in more with your skin.

While all these treatments and preventative measures may help, you shouldn’t expect miracles. Most women are able minimize the appearance of stretch marks, but some never go away.

A labor of love.

Realistically, your body is forever changed by pregnancy, but you shouldn’t feel bad about this. Being pregnant and giving birth is hard, and it’s natural for your body to bear the marks of such a tough and amazing experience.

Every mom has a different desires and expectations when it comes to their body, so you should make decisions about how to deal with your stretch marks that make sense for you. But remember to always love yourself and your body.

You are a solider of motherhood and shouldn’t be ashamed of your battle scars. They are a sign that you completed one of nature’s hardest and most rewarding experiences: giving birth to a child.

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