By the middle of the second trimester many women have one major complaint. Their skin is tight, itchy and developing stretch marks. Striae gravidarum, or stretch marks,form when the body is expanding so fast during pregnancy that the skin cannot expand smoothly. Instead, tiny tears form in the connective tissues of the skin. Some studies have led researchers to conclude that developing them is a matter of heredity. So, if your mother had them, chances are good that you will too. Most women develop them on the buttocks, thighs, breasts and belly.
Women of typical body weight will gain around 30 pounds during pregnancy. After the sixth month, you may be gaining up to a pound a week. Some 90% of women develop striae gravidarum during this period. On light skin, these first show as purple-red streaks. They fade over time into greyish white lines. Darker skinned women will develop marks that are reddish and lighter than their skin tone. These heal into silvery lines. The stripey nature of the marks have led some mothers to refer to them as their ‘momma tiger’badges.
Prevention and Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent stretch marks. No mommy balm, heavy lotion or herbal supplement will prevent stretch marks from forming. There are only things that can slow their formation or reduce their severity.
Your best defense against stretch marks involves controlling your weight gain. Gaining weight is a necessary and normal part of pregnancy. The trick is to not gain it in fast bursts. Instead, aim for a slow and steady gain of weight over a period of time.
Before the marks start to form do your best to stay hydrated. Some doctors believe that one of the reasons for formation of stretch markers has to do with dehydration of the skin. Keeping plenty of fluid in your body will not just help you and your baby stay healthy, it may keep your skin more elastic.
During pregnancy, a cream containing onion extract and hyaluronic acid may help fade fresh marks. For best results, use while the marks are still reddish. After giving birth, your doctor can give you a cream containing a retinoid which will simulate your skin to heal itself.
While using lotions will not prevent stretch marks from forming, they will help keep your skin from feeling tight as a drum. Some may even prevent the itching that torments so many. Oatmeal baths and cool compresses of kelp may relieve tightness and itching. They mayslow the formation of stretch marks even if they cannot prevent them.
Be aware that intense unresolvable itching during late second trimester and the third trimester can be a symptom of a serious condition that can end in stillbirth. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a liver condition whose first symptoms are itchy palms and soles that soon spreads to the whole body. Your doctor can do a blood test to check for this illness and monitor your baby.