There are some things you could try to minimise the effects of stretch marks, but no proven ways to prevent them. Stretch marks (or striae gravidarum) happen because your skin stretches as you gain weight and get a big baby bump. Even if you are not pregnant, you might get stretch marks if you put on weight rapidly. Stretch marks appear because it's not just the top layer of skin that stretches. The underlying layers stretch too. This creates small tears in the collagen (which is what gives skin its elasticity) that appear as stretch marks. Anti-stretch mark creams can't prevent stretch marks from happening because they can't get deep into these underlying layers. Genetics also seem to play a role. So you're more likely to get stretch marks if your mother has them.
Stretch marks look quite red or pale brown at first, depending on your skin colour. But they fade after your baby is born to a thin silvery or light brown line. The following tips may help to lessen the appearance of stretch marks, if not prevent them altogether:
- Foods rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, Vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids are considered nourishing for the skin. So eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals, seeds and nuts.
- Drink plenty of water. Well hydrated skin is more elastic. You can also have watery fruit and vegetables such as watermelon (tarbooz), cucumber (kheera), gourd (lauki/doodhi) etc.
- Gain weight slowly and steadily if you can.
- Take regular gentle exercise to help control your weight gain.
- Using a moisturising cream can help keep your skin soft, but don't count on it to prevent stretch marks. The same can be said about using oils. Many pregnant mums like to use wheat germ (gehun ka beej) oil, coconut (nariyal) oil, castor oil, olive oil or almond (badaam) oil. Besides keeping the skin soft, hydrating your skin with cream or oil can help with dry and itchy skin. Some complementary therapists suggest taking extra vitamin E capsules or rubbing vitamin E oil onto stretch marks. However, vitamin E capsules may not be safe for you to take in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamin supplements.