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What Causes Stretch Marks?

When people talk about the Pregnancy Glow, most of them neglect to mention stretch marks. Yet more than half of all women who bear children develop stretch marks. Knowing what causes them may help you reduce your own incidence and severity of stretch marks.

Where do they come from?

According to Dr. James Brann, a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist, stretch marks are the result of skin stretching so rapidly that the collagen that normally supports the skin separates from it. The resulting marks, which may be pinkish or light brown depending on the woman’s complexion, are called striae gravidarum or stretch marks. These painless but unsightly marks are permanent, though they will appear less noticeable over time.

Weighty issue

The chief cause of stretch marks is rapid weight gain. For this reason, as well as for your own overall health and that of your baby, attempt to gain no more than the 25 to 35 pounds recommended during your pregnancy, and do so slowly if possible.

Drink up

Skin that is dehydrated is less elastic, and the best hydration comes from inside. To keep your skin in top condition, make sure you drink plenty of water. Though you may hear that you should use topical moisturizers on your belly to help to prevent stretch marks, there is currently no research to support this claim. It certainly will not hurt, though, to gently rub your belly with a sweet-smelling lotion to soothe your expanding skin.

What you can't change

A number of factors that affect whether you get stretch marks are outside of your control. Heredity and ethnicity (more melatonin means less tendency toward stretch marks) are factors you are born with. Women are more likely to develop stretch marks in pregnancy if they had them in conjunction with another life event (such as puberty). Mothers who have greater amounts of amniotic fluid or are expecting multiple babies or a single large baby will experience greater expansion of their bellies, thus greater likelihood of stretch marks.

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