Currently, about half a dozen of my friends, cousins and colleagues are pregnant. Invariably, almost every single one of them asks me two questions. How did I keep unnecessary weight gain at bay? How did/ do I deal with stretch marks?
Honestly, the answer to both questions is- I am not sure! I did not do anything different during my pregnancy to manage my weight. As far as stretch marks go, well…
I have heard so may old wives’ tales about stretch marks. Apparently I should have used olive oil, virgin coconut oil, purified almond oil, stinky castor oil and lord knows what other oils and oleaginous concoctions to stave them off and nip them in the bud. My Grampy is convinced that itching causes stretch marks. My Mum told me only overweight people who are pregnant get them. Beauty gurus, Mommy blogs and YouTube told me that Palmer’s Cocoa butter, Bio Oil and Mederma kept them off.
My books and PubMed told me that nothing really helps! In prevention that is. I am slightly partial to my books, hence I choose to believe them eight times out of ten.
Striae gravidarum is basically dermal tearing with subsequent scarring. They may start of pinkish or bluish and then later turn into silvery, jagged striae. They may or may not lighten over time. Slapping on creams, oils and lotions on your stretched, itchy, ballooning belly will help with the feeling of dryness and the impulse to scratch but it is highly unlikely it will do anything to your impending stretch marks if your are due to get them. Genetics and your skin type does play a role, so there is some truth to the saying that if your mum has them you may have them as well. Also, it also depends on the amount of weight you gain and how quickly you do it. There is some evidence to suggest that abdominal striae can be correlated to fetal weight.
Even pre pregnancy, though I have never had any major weight fluctuations, I have been prone to getting striae, especially on my lower legs. I am not a fan of them, but I can live with them. I was convinced that pregnancy would leave a large collage of angry, ugly striae.
I patiently waited for them to make an appearance. Almost seven months into gestation, I still was barely “showing” and there was not one new stretch mark in sight. As I rolled into the eighth month, it felt like my abdomen was going to rip apart. My abdominal muscles was extremely resistive (all the pre- pregnancy crunches and leg- lifts?) and I felt like Lil’ Z was growing into my lungs. Breathless and uncomfortable all the time, I dealt with persistent abdominal pain for a week. And then one day, it was almost as if I “popped”. I ballooned overnight and finally looked enceinte!
And voila, out came my stretch marks! I was constantly itching (or trying not no) and to combat that I used Bio Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter (I know!! Shoot me!). Soon, Lil’ Z arrived and I forgot all about them. Postpartum, whenever the thought struck me, I slathered some cream on my tummy.
A year on, I have barely perceptible striae around my umbilicus (belly button). Cliched as it sounds, I like my pregnancy stretchmarks. They remind me of the days when Lil’ Zoe was inside of me. They are my battle scars! Truth be told, I might not love them so much if they were numerous and ugly (which they can sometimes be) and so yes, I am not being judgmental of the people who hate them and want them gone.
The good news is that, unlike their prevention, there are ways to lighten/ fade/ treat them. From topical application of prescription hyaluronic acid and retinoids to more invasive options like dermabrasion and lasers; the options are many and the results will vary depending on the method of treatment and the severity of the striae.
In short ladies, stop fretting over your battle scars. There isn’t much you can do to stop them from showing up. You can deal with them later on if you choose to though. I did use some of the famed anti- stretch mark products (Bio Oil, coconut oil and Palmer’s), but it was more to whet my idle curiosity rather than the hope of preventing stretch marks.
The mommas reading this, do tell us your striae stories!
Till next time..