Stretch mark prevention in pregnancy. The real deal

I am 6 months pregnant with my second kid. And this is the subject what doesn’t want to leave my mind – stretch marks. My firstborn was very kind to my skin and didn’t leave any marks. Even though I gained extra 20 kg while I was pregnant. I have to admit that I used home made aromatherapy cream 3 times a day as well. But what about second pregnancy? Will it be the same?

I want to give you the real deal information. Based on the facts and science. The information out there is a lot to take but I will hold on to what is important and what is proved to be working. So here it goes…as easy as the road to Los Angeles 🙂

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El Hierro Island

Stretch marks are…

long, narrow streaks, stripes or lines that develop on the skin and which differ in hue from the surrounding skin. They are the result of a sudden stretching of the skin and are extremely common. Their occurrence depends largely on skin type and skin elasticity. I didn’t put any photographs intentionally. I believe we know how they might look.

Stretch marks often appear after the 25th week of pregnancy. Common areas for stretch marks to arise include the abdomen, breasts, hips, flank, buttocks and thighs. What is interesting is that stretch marks are more common in younger pregnant women.

skinThe skin consists of three key layers:

epidermis (the outer layer), dermis (the middle layer) and subcutaneous (the deepest layer). Stretch marks form in the middle layer dermis when connective tissue is “stretched” beyond the limits of its elasticity. But actual stretch mark is visible on the outer skin layer. Finally, we have gained enough information where that beast is growing – in the middle skin layer dermis. So this is the place where we need to work on. But how?

Lesley Regan who wrote the big book “Your pregnancy week by week” more than 10 years ago says that no anti – stretch mark cream applied to the surface of your skin can have much effect on the deeper layers of skin. Sorry to say that but I must agree to that. Creams, gels, lotions have all been proposed as treatments for stretch marks, although there is little medical evidence to support the efficacy of such treatments.

How can aromatherapy help?

Aromatherapy can be defined as the controlled use of essential oils and carrier oils to maintain good health and revitalise the body, mind and spirit. Our skin is largely waterproof and that is the main barrier to permeability. However, essential oil molecules are so tiny they can pass through and between the cells using hair follicles and sebaceous glands as passageways. That is how essential oil molecules get into dermis – middle layer of the skin.

Evidence. A study aiming to identify the effect of applying bitter almond essential oil with and without massage for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy found that 15-minute massage applied with almond oil reduced the development of stretch marks. Applying oil without massage had no apparent effect. But there is one but! Unlike its cousin sweet almond oil (which is carrier oil), bitter almonds naturally contain traces of prussic acid (also known as hydrogen cyanide) making them ultimately lethal to ingest and a good thing to avoid. That is why you won’t be able to get this oil from reputable aromatherapy suppliers. The conclusion from this survey is that pregnant women should be informed about the positive effects of massage. And you should always think through what you are putting on your skin.

There is also some evidence that Cantella asiatica (gotu kola) extract can prevent stretch marks. Research suggests that gotu kola can promote collagen synthesis. And one recent study shows the effectiveness of Punica granatum (pomegranate seed) oil and Croton lechleri resin extract. These oils can be helpful in prevention or be improving skin changes associated with stretch marks.  I have to warn you that good quality oils are not cheap. Gotu kola price starts from 12.75 GBP but Pomegranate seed oil – twice as much. And that is for size as small as 30ml.

Which essential oils I have found to be effective?

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At Kew Gardens, London

Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender), Citrus aurantium var. amara (Neroli), Citrus reticulata (Mandarin), Boswellia carteri (Frankincense) and Rosa damascena (Rose Otto) for rich and lingering aroma. Per 50 ml of carrier oil, I use 38 drops of essential oils in total. But if you feel that your skin is slightly sensitive you always can reduce the number of essential oil drops used. This blend should be used daily in early pregnancy to avoid stretch marks, as they do not respond to treatment after they appear.

Ultimately, stretch marks cannot always be prevented, although these steps may help to reduce the risk:

  • Aim for slow and gradual weight gain during pregnancy
  • Drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses daily)
  • Exercise and be active ( I like to use YouTube channel Babyfit By Amy Prenatal Workouts)
  • Light massage for your belly in early pregnancy

Suppliers I trust:

Materia Aromatica, Oshadhi, Naturally Thinking

References: What information I used

“What are stretch marks? How can stretch marks be treated?”, Nicholas H, Medical News Today, 27 Nov 2015; “Aromatherapy for Massage Practitioners”, Martin I, 2007; “Anatomy&Physiology”, Hull R, 2011; “Your pregnancy week by week”, Regan L, 2010; Studies from PubMed; notes from my teacher Gabriel Mojay

 

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