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The Origin of Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a common by-product of pregnancy. This problem affects 50-90% of pregnant women.
Stretch marks also affect non-pregnant women and men, body builders, athletes, teens undergoing quick growth spurts or anyone who experiences periods of rapid growth or weight gain or loss.
The majority of stretch marks appear on a woman's belly from about 6 months onward when her belly is rapidly stretching to accommodate her growing baby and push skin to it's limit. Some women also have them on their lower back, upper arms, hips, thighs, buttocks or breasts. They usually are concentrated around the zones that store the most fat and, as a result, do the most stretching.
When skin and underlying tissue pull and stretch beyond their capacity, the collagen accumulations located deep in the tissues break apart. When this happens, the skin actually rips and tears. The tiny tears heal, producing scar tissue. Stretch marks usually appear as small red, pink, purple or dark brown depressed lines in the skin, varying in extension from one-tenth of an inch to four inches. Stretch marks are most evident in the beginning, but after birth the marks can slowly flatten out and lose their color.
Several factor can boost your chances to prevent stretch marks. Genetics play an important role in whether or not you will get stretch marks. If your mother or sister got them during pregnancy, you may be more likely to get them yourself. Besides a genetic predisposition, other factors include: ethnicity/skin tone (fair-skinned women tend to have them more), nutritional history (a sensible diet helps skin to stretch better), skin condition (dry skin use to be less elastic than well nourished skin) and the proportion of weight gained during pregnancy (also how rapidly it was gained). If you are carrying multiples, carrying a big baby, have excessive amniotic fluid or are innately thin or small - you can have a higher than average incidence of stretch marks.
Preventative measures will aid minimize the degree of stretch marks you experience after birth. Gaining no more than the ideal amount of weight and gaining it slowly can help minimize your chances of having them. Rapid or excessive weight gain will only compound the condition of stretch marks and likely make you to have more in the end.
Maintaining your skin well-moisturized beginning in the first trimester can help avoid stretch marks. A nourishing lotion, oil or skin moisturizer used on a daily and nightly basis will moisturize your skin (and also minimize itching). There are many products especially for stretch mark prevention and removal that contain ingredients like emu oil, vitamin A, vitamin E, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil and lanolin. Some moisturizing helps to improve the skin's elasticity, however, the effectiveness of these products in avoiding stretch marks have been demonstrated to be rather limited.
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