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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Tiang Sack Sing and Dr Jessica Gunawan on April 3, 2023

How To Use TCM To Reduce Stretch Marks

Stretch marks can develop due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Learn how to prevent and minimize them here.

Stretch marks and baby min scaled

Stretch marks happen when the skin expands more rapidly than its elastic capability. They often appear as narrow lines that are red, pink, purple, blue, or brown in color, but can fade to white lines after a while.

They tend to occur after pregnancy, but can also pop up if you recently gained or lost a lot of weight.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to prevent and even reduce your stretch marks using natural therapies, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Read on to learn more.

What Causes Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman's belly with stretch mark
Hormonal changes can cause stretch marks during pregnancy.

Hormones play a main role in determining whether you get stretch marks during pregnancy. The adrenal glands produce cortisol hormone.

As cortisol levels naturally increase, the elastic fibers in the skin weaken. As your skin stretches, it results in pregnancy stretch marks. This usually begins during the second trimester when there is a rapid growth of the fetus.

When you hit the third trimester and are about to deliver your baby, that is when they’re usually most common and obvious.

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 fetal growth and weight. When the skin is overstretched to the point of exceeding the normal limit, the dermal connective tissue, elastic and collagen fibers will be damaged, resulting in stretch marks that look like streaks.”

TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing

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

Do creams and oils for stretch marks work? 

Entrepreneur and mom-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 that were noticeable during her three pregnancies. “I couldn’t prevent them,“ she tells us. “I used specialized 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.”

Can Stretch Marks Be Minimized?

TCM has a few tips to reduce their appearance: 

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.”

TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing

Use edible 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. It can be used for all depletion or deficiency conditions.

“Bird’s nest has a great moisturizing and nourishing effect on the body, especially those with a Dry-Heat constitution before childbirth and a weak constitution after childbirth.”

TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing

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 aging.

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 skin. 

Can You Prevent Stretch Marks?

A pregnant woman stretching on a yoga mat with an exercise ball in the background
Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy and exercising regularly can help with prevention.

According to Physician Tiang, the following contribute to the formation of stretch marks:

  • Reduced physical activity during pregnancy
  • Excessive weight gain over a short period of time
  • Carrying a fetus larger than the gestational age

Therefore, proper exercise is necessary during pregnancy to keep your weight in a healthy range.

“Keeping weight gain within 26 pounds (12 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. 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.” 

TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing

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

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