Looking after your skin can make a tremendous difference to comfort levels and confidence as pregnancy hormones, rapid growth and a changing body shape take their toll.
Pregnancy stretch marks
Up to 90% of women develop stretch marks (medically known as striae) during pregnancy. According to dermatologist Dr Ayesha Moolla, "Stretch marks are a form of scar tissue. They are caused by a rapid weight gain or expansion in body shape that results in tiny tears in the dermal layer of skin. This subsequently results in scar formation or stretch marks."
While they pose no risk at all to mother or baby, many women have concerns about their appearance. Stretch marks generally become visible during the last trimester of pregnancy (around the sixth or seventh month), although some women will start to see them forming as soon as their bellies start growing.
According to gynaecologist Dr Jana Rossouw, "stretch marks are most likely to form on the abdomen, but can also occur on the breasts, hips and thighs – any area that experiences rapid growth."
Bio-Oil is the number one scar and stretch mark product in 24 countries around the world, including South Africa, where it is the product most recommended by gynaecologists and midwives for stretch marks. Dr Ashesha Moolla says, “The topical application of an emollient, oil or moisturiser – such as Bio-Oil – has been shown to help reduce the incidence and severity of stretch marks.”
Here are some tips on how to prevent stretch marks:
The best defence against stretch marks is to ensure that the skin maintains maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy. This is achieved by keeping skin well hydrated and supple.
Itchy dry skin
"Skin moisturising is important as the skin can get very itchy and uncomfortable during pregnancy," says Lynne Bluff, South Africa’s leading childbirth educator and editor of The Expectant Mother’s Guide. Many women experience itchy skin, particularly around the breasts and abdomen, as the skin stretches to accommodate growth.
"Massaging oil onto the breasts and tummy will moisturise the skin, soothe itchiness and help decrease the chance of stretch marks forming. It’s also a great way to start bonding with the little person inside," says Bluff.
To accommodate the discomfort of a dry and itchy skin, midwife Heike Millar advises her clients to "stay well hydrated, eat good wholesome food, wear loose cotton clothing so that you don’t get too hot, take cool baths or showers and to apply a good topical oil so that the skin stays elastic enough to stretch."