The jury’s out on whether you can prevent stretch marks or not.
Some people will swear they’re genetic, others say they’re caused by your body growing faster than your skin can keep up with which is (somewhat) within our control.
I’m not here to make a definitive case for either side – all I can do is try my best to keep my skin nourished and hydrated to have the best shot at not developing them during my pregnancy. Below are the 8 specific ways I’m doing this.
But first, a bit of history: I got some light stretch marks as a teen (thanks puberty) on my hips and breasts. Not terribly noticeable to anyone but myself (and my husband after we’d been together for about 6 years – “What are those white marks on your boobs?” So attentive! Ha).
But as I write this, I’m 17 weeks pregnant with my first baby – with quite a large bump already – and I haven’t got any stretch marks so far, despite gaining 4kg (9lbs) in a relatively short time.
So it could be down to ‘good luck’, but I think it’s more likely that it’s I’ve started taking care of myself in specific stretch-mark-avoiding ways. (But I guess I can only answer that for sure once I’ve given birth.)
For now, I’m going to do everything I can to look after myself. This goes beyond slathering on a cream every few days and ‘hoping for the best’ – it does take work, every day.
It’s important for me to add that it’s not just about preventing stretch marks – while this is one goal, it’s about overall health too. Taking the time to eat well, stay hydrated, be active and have a self-care routine means I’m happier, more relaxed, nourishing my baby the best way I can, and allowing myself a bit of me-time to feel pampered.
So it’s not just about the physical side. Afterwards, if I look like I’ve lost a fight with a big cat and have stretch marks from head to toe, that’s perfectly fine. Stretch marks are a sign of carrying a baby, starting a family, bringing children into the world… what’s more worthwhile than that? As long as I’ve done my best, that’s all I can ask of myself.
1. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of good fats.
A diet high in good fats like avocado, oily fish like salmon, nuts, coconut oil and olive oil is not only great for your skin but your brain health too. My favourite high-fat snacks are avocado toast, macadamias and Brazil nuts, boiled eggs, coconut yoghurt with berries, homemade chia puddings, bliss balls, cheese (halloumi is #life) or even just a tablespoon of coconut oil straight from the jar. Also, eat hydrating foods like cucumbers, oranges, celery and lettuce.
2. Add gelatin to your diet.
Gelatin is powdered collagen, the stuff that increases the elasticity in your skin. You can get more in your diet by drinking homemade bone broth, or buying a powdered gelatin. I use the Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate powder. It’s as simple as mixing 1-2 tablespoons into a glass of water. It has no taste, smell or texture so you can also add it to your cooking or any drink without any grittiness or nasty aftertaste.
3. Avoid sugar.
Sugar is known for accelerating wrinkles and ageing the skin. No spank you! Reduce sugar in your diet by eating less store-bought/processed foods, cooking more, reading nutrition labels, avoiding anything with more than 5g of sugar per 100g, and keeping your pantry and fridge free from sugary treats. (See my complete list of ways to reduce sugar here and how to stop sugar cravings here.)
4. Start dry body brushing.
Body brushing is simply using a specific brush on your dry skin in long, sweeping strokes. As your largest organ your skin detoxifies and eliminates waste and impurities, so the brushing stimulates your lymphatic (drainage) system and is said to help with stretch marks and cellulite. It’s not only safe during pregnancy, but many health practitioners recommend it.
I’d heard of dry body brushing years ago, but I could never be bothered doing it. Frankly, it seemed like hard work. But being pregnant gave me new motivation to take care of myself, so when I found out I was pregnant (no wait – that’s a lie – I probably didn’t get around to it until I was about 14 weeks *guilty face*) I bought this set that included a body brush with detachable handle, face brush and body massager. I’ve now been doing it once a day, either in the morning before my shower or before I go to bed (it takes about 10 minutes), and after 3 weeks I’ve already noticed a difference. My skin is smoother and clearer, it got rid of red dots I’d had on the back of my arms and the tops of my thighs for about 15 years (not kidding), and it just feels so nice. Whether it will help with stretch marks or cellulite remains to be seen, but just for the other benefits I’m going to keep it up.
5. Stay hydrated.
Drink as much water as possible throughout the day – ideally 2-3L (half to 1 gallon). Easier said than done though, right! In my first trimester, this is one thing I had to work really, really, really hard at. My morning sickness meant it often felt impossible to take more than a few sips of water at a time. So if you told me back then to drink even 4 glasses of water, I would’ve laughed at you (then promptly taken a nap). Now I’m in my second trimester it’s got much easier (phew), but at the time three main drinks helped: coconut water, sparkling water with freshly squeezed lime juice, and flavoured herbal tea. You could also flavour regular water with slices of cucumber, mint leaves, a small handful of berries or fresh lemon wedges.
6. Take supplements.
Fish oil, cod liver oil and biotin are all great for your skin as well as your hair and nails.
7. Regularly moisture areas prone to stretching.
Since I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks I started moisturising areas I knew would stretch like my breasts, stomach, hips, butt, thighs and lower back. I try to do this twice a day, but sometimes once is all I manage. I use Burt’s Bees Belly Butter which I love – it’s well priced and doesn’t have a strong smell.
8. Stay active.
Moving our bodies is important for tons of reasons, with supple skin being just one of them. Try yoga or other gentle exercise at least 3-4 times a week – I do two bodybalance classes a week at my local gym, swimming once a week, and a pre-natal yoga video on the weekends at home. I also walk for about 30 minutes a day – in my first trimester I was so nauseous that I wanted to cry, but I found that a brisk walk (even just 15 minutes) made me feel better.
In short, there are no quick fixes (sorry!) but if you’re willing to put in the effort then I think you’ve got a good shot at preventing stretch marks and more importantly, improving your overall health.
- Science on why stretch marks are preventable via Paleo Hacks
- More on dry body brushing via Daily Mom
Good luck on your pregnancy journey!