I really admire what The Shape of a Mother‘s creator is trying to achieve – namely giving mothers a place to show off their mum badges of honour and talk about how they feel about them. The idea being this is liberating and shows people what women really look like when they aren’t busy being air brushed.

HOWEVER, since I’ve not yet had my first child it has scared the shit out of me. I don’t want a bum on my belly and loads of horrible stretch marks but it seems that this is the only possible outcome (unless you are my lovely friend Ania who has no stretch marks and has gone back to the size she was before having 2 kids, if not smaller – please, dear god, let me have her genes too!!).

So, aside from panic about the fact that I’ve put on another 4 lbs over the last week (really need to stop eating like a trucker), I’m all about trying to prevent as much as I can from getting morphed into something that can’t be morphed back. Starting with weight gain.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, try not to put on too much weight! I’m mainly talking to myself here. It seems that one of the main pieces of advice to prevent most issues (stretch marks included as they are caused by a growth spurt) is to keep a handle on your weight. I’m guessing this will also prevent the excess sagging skin (bum belly from earlier) from seriously taking shape while you’re happily growing junior and none-the-wiser.

Looking more specifically at stretch marks, according to supernanny.co.uk the good news is 75% – 90% of women develop stretch marks. How is that good news? Well, it isn’t especially but on the bright side, this does mean that there is an outside chance that you won’t develop any purple meanies if you’re in the 10 – 25% gang. They go on to suggest the following pre-birth tips to prevent stretch marks (the post-birth advice includes surgery!):

1. Massage your skin – this will improve circulation to the skin, therefore, promoting new tissue growth. You can do this with moisturiser but I think a circulation brush (which is meant to get rid of celulite in a similar way) might also do the trick. According to Beautiful on Raw collagen production (required for lovely, non-stretched skin) is encouraged by getting rid of the old, dead skin cells. So, exfoliation could be the key here by also providing a massage.

2. Get the right vitamins and minerals – you especially want vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and silica for healthy skin.

3. Drink loads of water – keeps you and your skin hydrated, of course.

4. Get the right cream – and start using it early on. Apparently you want something with Vitamin E in it.

What I can gather from all number of sources is that when it comes to stretch mark prevention creams can cost the earth and are as much use as a dog on roller skates. The stretching occurs under the skin (i.e. out of reach from creams) and is caused by a loss of elastin and collagen in the skin. (Having said that, I’m still moisturing everyday as I have insanely dry skin but I’m just buying the cheap stuff!)

Taking this into consideration, I’m, therefore, more interested in what to eat rather than what to put on to prevent stretch marks.

According to stretchmarkremoval.com the name of the game is keeping your skin (namely the connective tissue) “elastic and pliable” in order to prevent the marks forming by eating the right things. Foodrenegade.com go one further and fully believe that by altering your diet you CAN prevent stretch marks! Hooray. In this article, foodrenegade shares the amazing story of a woman who after an initial stretch mark riddled pregnancy then went on to have twins (large twins at that – 6 and 7lbs!) 15 years later without a single mark. She puts it purely down to what she ate.

So, what to eat…basically things that will help your skin to maintain it’s moisture and elasticity:

  1. Vitamin E – scar reduction and skin firmer. Get it from Spinach, watercress, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.
  2. Vitamin A – reduces skin inflammation, scar reduction and skin firmer. Get it from dark green leafy veg (broccoli, watercress, etc.), and orange fruits and veg (such as carrots, oranges, apricots and mangos)
  3. Vitamin D – important for organ function (and skin is one of the biggest organs). See link for where to get it from.
  4. Vitamin C – scar reduction and skin firmer, and important for collagen production. Get it from collard greens, kale, and red peppers, oranges, grapefruit and lemon. You need plenty every day as the body doesn’t store it (Beautiful on Raw believes that this should be your first port of call in prevention).
  5. Omega 3 – supports the production of collagen. I’d say get it from fish rather than a supplement.
  6. Zinc – excellent mineral for the skin. Get it from fish, nuts, whole grains, peppers, and leafy greens, lentils and chickpeas. Also you can add a supplement.
  7. Silica – nourishes the elastic and collagen fibers in your skin. Get it from cucumber, celery, peppers, carrots and tomatoes.
  8. Rosehip seed oil – supports the production of collagen. Take as a supplement and also put on the skin (perhaps check with your midwife first though).

And, potentially as important is what not to eat (unfortunately)…

  1. Animal fat
  2. Junk food (no more late night kebabs then)
  3. diet and regular soda drinks (does this include things like Fanta as well as coke? I’m assuming so – bums! As if having to give up booze wasn’t bad enough)
  4. Caffeine

These types of food are harmful to the skin and therefore exaggerate the issue of stretch marks.

Finally, and as ever, hubspages suggest exercise! By carrying out aerobics and resistance training, and going for a 15-30 min walk everyday, you can prevent the worst of it.

We shall see and fingers crossed big style! At least with all this to think about, we won’t have time to even go near a chocolate bar. Let me know what you think…if you’ve had a baby and kept the stretchies at bay, please let us in on your secret!

Resources:

Avoiding the dreaded stretch marks – supernanny.co.uk

How a proper diet prevents stretch marks – stretchmarkremoval.com

Prevent stretch marks with nutrition – foodrenegade.com

Foods to prevent stretch marks – Livestrong

Stretch mark – Beautiful on Raw

How to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy – hubpages