A woman’s body goes through different changes during pregnancy. Expectant mothers take great joy in hearing their baby’s heart rate, or even feeling their slight movements inside the womb. Pregnancy after all, makes a woman rediscover herself as her body changes, to accommodate the growing baby. You marvel at how fast your baby is growing and as you look in the mirror, you suddenly see these, pink or reddish streaks on the sides of your abdominal wall. You suddenly realize that it’s not fair, you have endured too much.

These pink or reddish streaks are called stretch marks or striae gravidarum, and it affects around 90% of all women. They appear around the 24th week of pregnancy or onwards, because the skin stretches to accommodate the growing uterus. This stretching plus possibly hormonal changes, can cause rupture and atrophy, on portions of the connective layer of the skin. The result is, stretch marks. These usually appear on the side of the of the abdomen, or thighs but it can also be found on buttocks, breasts or even arms.

Although the basic cause of stretch marks is unknown, genetics do play a role in whether or not your are predisposed to having them. This means that if your mother got stretch marks during her pregnancy, you are more prone to getting them yourself. An individual can only go great lengths in order to treat it, but the first initial step should be prevention.

The best way to prevent your skin from stretching too rapidly, is by eating a well balanced diet, that keeps your weight gain within normal limits. The normal range for weight gain among pregnant women is 25 to 35 pounds. And it is best to keep your weight gain at a steady pace, in order to avoid too much stretching. Foods that promote skin health are also recommended, like foods rich in zinc, such as nuts or fish. Foods high in vitamins A and C are as important, and examples of these are, citrus foods, carrots, milk and eggs.

Moisturize as early as possible because research has shown, that stretch marks most readily respond to treatment, during the early stages. There are numerous commercially available creams you can choose from to prevent stretch marks. Choose the ones that contain cocoa butter or shea butter, and apply liberally three to four times a day. These moisturizers will help the skin to remain intact despite too much stretching. Hydration is also very important in keeping the skin healthy. Make sure that you drink enough water because, a well hydrated skin is able withstand better the changes.

The appearance of stretch marks depends largely on the color of your skin. It can vary from brown, dark brown, pink or reddish brown that will fade and turn into silver or white as time passes. And as much as you would like it to go away after giving birth, the changes have become permanent. If it bothers you too much, consult your doctor so that you will know what options are available for you. Specially formulated creams can be prescribed by your dermatologist to help in reducing the appearance. If not, ask your doctor for other treatment approaches like laser therapy, chemical peels and dermabrasion. They have been found effective in minimizing the appearance of stretch marks.

Taking care of yourself after giving birth, is equally important because your body is again prone to stretch marks due to weight loss. The changes brought about by pregnancy may cause havoc to a woman’s self esteem. However, as you nurture the life that you brought into this world, you begin to realize that these minor discomforts are nothing ,compared to the joy of being a mother.