Go to page content

Can You Minimise Pregnancy Stretch Marks? These Women Tell Their Stories

Stretch marks occur during pregnancy or drastic weight changes when the skin is stretched in a short period of time. Learn whether stretch mark reducing products work and how they can be minimised through TCM methods.

Woman lying on a couch and cradling her pregnant belly with a smile

Stretch marks are extremely common in pregnant women. It happens when skin expands rapidly more than its elastic capability due to weight loss or gain. They often appear as narrow lines which are red, pink, purple or brown, and usually fade to white lines after some time.

“Almost all my friends got them during pregnancy. We just embrace them and label them as our ‘battle scars’,” says Sharon, who is a restauranteur and mum of three.

The appearance of stretch marks can affect self-confidence, especially if they’re obvious. “In the beginning, I was conscious about wearing low-cut bikini bottoms because the stretch marks were dark red and purple and obvious,” she reveals. “But they faded over time, and I got used to them so now I’m not bothered.” 

Can pregnancy stretch marks be prevented and reduced? And do stretch mark creams work? We find out here.

What Causes Pregnancy Stretch Marks? 

Hormones play a main role in determining whether you get stretch marks during pregnancy. This usually begins during the second trimester when there is rapid growth of the foetus. When you hit the third trimester and are about to deliver your baby, that is when they’re usually most common and obvious.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Tiang Sack Sing explains that stretch marks are caused by pregnancy endocrine changes when the skin experiences stretching and internal tearing.

“The skin continues to stretch with the increase of foetal growth and weight. When the skin is overstretched to the point of exceeding the normal limit, the dermal connective tissue, elastic and collagen fibres will be damaged, resulting in stretch marks that look like streaks,” she says.

Woman showing her stretch marks
Stretch marks usually appear as red, purple or brown lines and fade to white after some time.

These usually appear on the abdomen, chest, buttocks and thighs. States Physician Tiang, “The larger the baby, the more obvious or serious stretch marks are, and the more difficult it is to fade.” 

You’re more prone to them during pregnancy if you are any of the following: 

  • Young at the start of pregnancy 
  • Have a higher weight at the start of pregnancy 
  • Are carrying a larger baby or more than one baby 
  • Have a family history of women with stretch marks 

Do Creams and Oils Work? 

Entrepreneur and mum-of-two Elaine says that stretch mark creams didn’t work on her. “I used oils and creams after every shower, but it didn’t seem to work. Or perhaps they did because my stretch marks could have been worse,” she reveals. 

Many of her friends underwent laser treatments in an attempt to reduce stretch marks in addition to using creams. “The treatments lightened them, but the lines don’t totally disappear,” she says.

Sharon had stretch marks which were noticeable during her three pregnancies. “I couldn’t prevent them,“ she tells us. “I used specialised body oils, shea butter and stretch mark creams but they didn’t work. All my kids had massive growth spurts in the last two weeks of pregnancy.”

Woman applying cream to her pregnant belly
There are a myriad of creams, lotions and oils in the market promising to reduce or prevent stretch marks.

So, Can Stretch Marks Be Minimised? 

TCM has a few tips to reduce their appearance: 

Start with a good foundation 

It’s essential to start from the inside out. “Firstly, having a healthy body is crucial. Good circulation is the foundation of healthy skin and muscles. Postpartum confinement is especially crucial for women, as maintaining sufficient qi (vital energy) and blood helps their bodies recover and repair. Therefore, protein and collagen intake during confinement are important nutritional elements of skin and body repair,” advises Physician Tiang. 

Take Bird’s Nest to Repair Skin 

Bird’s nest contains plenty of important nutrients. TCM believes that bird’s nest tonifies Lungs, nourishes yin and moistens the body, hence it can be used for all depletion or deficiency conditions. “It has a great moisturising and nourishing effect on the body, especially those with a Dry-Heat constitution before childbirth and a weak constitution after childbirth,” explains Physician Tiang.

“Studies have found that bird’s nest is rich in polypeptide hormone-epidermal growth factor (EGF), which can promote cell regeneration, enhance skin texture and firmness, rapidly repair damaged skin, promote skin delicacy, and slow ageing. These help keep skin smoother and more elastic. Besides that, the water-soluble protein found in bird’s nest is an important component of skin, hair, and muscles. It can reduce the formation of wrinkles, keep skin healthy, and delay ageing.”

Bowl of bird’s nest on a table with red dates and goji berries
Bird’s nest is rich in polypeptide hormone-epidermal growth factor (EGF), which is great for skin and could help in reducing stretch marks.

Bird’s nest’s moisturising effect and epidermal growth factor have great effects on cell and skin repair. It can be consumed in a moderate amount before and after childbirth as it helps to improve skin firmness and elasticity, which helps in preventing and improving the appearance of stretch marks. 

Can Stretch Marks Be Prevented? 

According to Physician Tiang, reduced physical activity during pregnancy, excessive weight gain over a short period of time, and carrying a foetus larger than the gestational age, all contribute to the formation of stretch marks. Therefore, proper exercise is necessary during pregnancy to keep your weight gain on an average.

“Keeping weight gain within 12 kilograms (kg) during the whole pregnancy has a positive effect on prevention,” she advises.  

In terms of your diet, besides focusing on balanced nutrition and protein intake, eating more foods that are rich in collagen is also important. “Collagen-rich foods can improve the elasticity and firmness of the skin,” she suggests. “Gentle massages with oil or massage cream before and after childbirth can also relieve the tension of regional skin and muscles. This is helpful for preventing and eliminating stretch marks.” 

While pregnancy stretch marks aren’t a critical condition, it certainly can affect body confidence. Try these tips if you’re looking to minimise their appearance, or you can learn to embrace them and be proud of what your body has achieved through pregnancy and childbirth. 

References

  1. NHS UK, 2019, Stretch marks in pregnancy [online], [Accessed 17 August 2022] 
  2. Biomed Central, 2018, Prevention of striae gravidarum: study protocol for a pilot randomised controlled trial [online], [Accessed 17 August 2022] 
  3. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 2016, The use of anti stretch marks’ products by women in pregnancy: a descriptive, cross-sectional survey, [online], [Accessed 17 August 2022] 

Share this article on

Was This Article Useful to You?

Want more healthy tips?

Get All Things Health in your mailbox today!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Articles

Woman holds breast with a facial expression showing pain
Parenthood

Mastitis Treatment for Breastfeeding Mothers

If you're a new mum struggling with mastitis, read on to learn about effective mastitis treatments to help you go through this challenging time.

Read More

The contents of the All Things Health website are for informational and educational purposes only.
Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.