Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a very common side effect of the often-rapid growth and weight gain you probably experienced during pregnancy. On some women, stretch marks can look very severe — they may be raw, painful, or even bleed, and can be found anywhere you may have gained weight or grown quickly — breasts, abdomen, hips, thighs, and even arms. Though the idea that stretch marks can be prevented by moisturizing the skin seems to persist, a large part of what causes stretch marks has to do with your genetic predisposition to the marks, as well as your diet, and how much you grew, and how fast, while pregnant.

Now that the stretch marks are here, you've got some possibilities for treatment. Dermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser treatments have been touted as ways to help your stretch marks blend in with the rest of your skin, and some treatments are said to help the skin regain some of its elasticity. Speak to a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon if you're really unhappy with how your skin looks after a year or so. He or she will be able to suggest the best treatment method for you.

Alert

Some medications, such as Retin A, have been shown to be effective at fading stretch marks when used soon after you give birth. But not all of them are safe for breastfeeding, and may carry a risk of birth defects if you were to get pregnant again during treatment.

Keep in mind that no treatment is likely to completely eradicate the marks pregnancy left on your body, and if you have more children, the stretch marks will probably reappear. It's probably a better idea to wait until some time has passed after the birth of your last baby before you make any permanent cosmetic changes. That way, you'll see what your true “new” body looks like and will have time to become more comfortable with it before you spend the time and expense on cosmetic treatment.

In the meantime, your stretch marks will eventually fade and lighten, from purply red to a silvery white. Your skin will probably also tighten up a bit, which can make your stretch marks look less prominent. After they have a chance to get used to them, many women proudly carry their stretch marks as a sign of the changes their bodies went through during pregnancy on their journey to motherhood.

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