pregnant woman in underwear


Stretch Marks

What helps with stretch marks, and how can you prevent them? 

Baby bumps are a beautiful thing. However, a common side effect of the expectant mother's growing belly is stretch marks. What causes them, and are there any effective methods for preventing them? 

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks occur when the connective tissue is overstretched due to the growth of the baby bump, the breasts, or an increase in the size of the buttocks and thighs – all of which can cause cracks to form in the subcutis.

These "gaps" in the tissue are also visible on the surface of the skin and initially present as reddish or blue-reddish stripes, but usually fade with time. However, because these are scars, they do not disappear completely.

Medically, they are entirely unproblematic, but cosmetically they may be perceived as unattractive, especially in severe cases.

Who is particularly affected by this?

  • Young women (the connective tissue is not as strong)  
  • Women who gain a lot of weight quickly 
  • Women with a predisposition to weak connective tissue 

What helps prevent stretch marks?

1. Avoid gaining weight excessively quickly:
Your weight is best controlled through exercise (swimming and yoga are highly recommended for pregnant women, but with consideration to your baby and the pregnancy any exercise you enjoy and that is not objectionable from a medical point of view will be beneficial) and a healthy diet – see point 2.

2. Eat a balanced diet:
Your skin needs many vitamins, minerals, protein, and high-quality fat. Any foods that guarantee a good supply of vitamin C, B12, E, zinc, and amino acids are recommended. These include nuts, linseed oil, wheat germ oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, legumes, plenty of vegetables (broccoli and carrots are highly recommended), fruit, whole grains such as millet and whole grain bread, linseed and sunflower seeds. Avoid sugar as much as possible.

3. Gently promote blood circulation in the skin:
Better blood circulation increases elasticity and ensures that the tissue is well supplied with nutrients. You can achieve this by massaging the skin of commonly affected areas such as the belly, breasts, buttocks, and thighs in a gentle circular motion (similar to exfoliation) about 3 times a week with a loofah sponge, massage glove, or soft brush. At the beginning of the pregnancy you can also use pinching massage, where you gently pinch and pull up small areas of skin between your fingers. "Pluck" the entire area using this method. Ask your doctor how long you can continue with pinching massage without causing any harm.

4. Drink plenty of fluids regularly:
The hypodermis can bind water3. A good supply of fluids helps it to maintain its elasticity.

5. Establish a skincare regime:
Regular skincare also promotes the skin's elasticity. Your usual body cream can be very helpful. Also recommended are skincare oils such as almond oil. Incidentally, skincare products are best absorbed directly after a shower while slightly damp and/or after a (peeling) massage.

6. Avoid over-stressing or drying out your skin:
The skin is stressed in particular by full baths without moisturizing additives, frequent swimming without subsequent skincare, and sunbathing – ideally avoid these things or care for your skin especially well afterwards.

7. Wear supporting (nursing or maternity) bras and abdominal bands:
Well-fitting bras prevent strong movements and pulling on the tissue. Some pregnant women find abdominal bands comfortable and they can also have a mildly "supportive" effect.
Pregnant woman rubs oil on her belly.

Is it possible to eradicate existing stretch marks?

Because they are scars, complete removal is usually not possible. However, the appearance can be improved. Possible remedies offered by dermatologists include:

  • Special creams, acid peels, and scar care products that promote collagen production and make the marks fade
  • Treatment with a special laser 
  • Microneedling: tiny needles are rolled over the skin with a small roller. This process should aid the absorption of healing or caring active ingredients.
  • Ultrasound: minimally invasive treatment for smoother skin

Which method is most appropriate in your case depends on various factors, such as the severity of the stretch marks, skin type, location and, of course, financial factors. Consult a dermatologist for detailed advice!

One final option is to wear the small scars with pride and see them as a reminder of your pregnancy, birth, and journey into parenthood – stretch marks are completely normal and are merely a sign of the incredible things your body is capable of!

Photos: Shutterstock, Unsplash