Skin is a remarkable material. It's renewable, washable, and pretty flexible. However, pregnancy skin can feel more dry, more greasy or more itchy due to the changes in hormones, and one of the biggest fears is the reality of (horrors!) stretchmarks!
Why do people get stretchmarks?
Stretchmarks occur when the skin has literally been stretched beyond the tissue's ability to bounce back into shape. The elastin and collagen naturally present just can't cope, usually with a rapid growth. This is why they are associated with the changes to a woman's bump or boobs in pregnancy, although any person (men get them too!) if they put on weight in a particular area of their body.
Stretchmarks tend to be long red or pink lines, usually vertical rather than horizontal. Sometimes they may look quite 'angry', and they can itch a bit, but usually, once your bump has gone, they will fade, or seem like pale pink or silvery lines which won't be as noticeable. If your skin tone is darker, these may appear darker brown or purple at first but will still fade to small shiny lines later.
What can you do about stretchmarks?
Just as sun, cold and other factors affect different skin types to a greater or lesser degree, some people are lucky to be blessed with more elasticity in their skin. In these people, stretchmarks may never occur at all, or to only a slight extent.
If your skin has to stretch more gradually, it is less likely to stress the elastin as much, so trying to control how quickly you put on weight by eating well (NOT dieting) without too many fatty foods, might help. However, a massive growth spurt on the part of the fetus might frustrate you here!
Even if you don't find that your skin has dried too much during pregnancy, keeping a skin moisturising regime can help to make the skin on your bump, arms, legs and boobs more supple. This might help to minimise the appearance of stretchmarks.
A diet which includes lots of water, and green leafy vegetables and yellow fruit and veg (good natural sources of Vitamin A) can help feed your skin for cell regeneration and keep it well hydrated.
Pampering to beat the stretchmarks
Using creams or oils which are safe in pregnancy can help to keep skin more supple.
(Some contain essential oils which are not advised during pregnancy, but companies like Elemis, Mama Mio and Inspirito use pregnancy-safe products in their ranges.)
Some health experts question whether any cream can fully wipe away the signs of stretchmarks, but if you use even a healthy basic oil (an organic, extra virgin olive oil, for example), you can ease the itching and perhaps at least help prevent more marks appearing.
Despite this, many women swear by certain creams and oils, and the me-time they help build into your daily routine is a valuable rest period for you in pregnancy, too.