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Those Pesky Stripes – We Call Stretch Marks!

It’s a common topic among 21stcentury women, with the rise of achieving the perfect body. Do we give thanks to social media splashing the perfect body for us all to envy and reach for? Or to the fact that we as women are becoming more body conscious? During a post natal consultation when I ask if they have any other concerns, I quite frequently get asked about stretch marks.

So what are stretch marks? In short they are long, streaks, stripes or lines that develop on the skin, seen most commonly in women pre and post natally and people with a sudden change weight. Scientifically however they are caused by the combination of the skin stretching and an increase in the hormone cortisone. Cortisone is a naturally produced hormone by the body, but by having too much can cause skin to lose its elasticity and weaken. A professor of dermatology Frank Wang, M.D has been studying the cause of stretch marks in order to know how to effectively treat them. The study followed pregnant women during and after childbirth. It found that the elastic fiber network in the skin gets disrupted and that after giving birth, this network remains in situ. These elastic fibers ultimately give skin its elasticity, and the ability to bounce back after being overstretched. The skin tries to repair this disrupted network of fibres, however it does not appear to be effective. This unfortunately leads to loose, lax skin resulting in those pesky stretch marks.

Can I get rid of these stripes? Unfortunately, no. The current research done on topical treatments such as creams and oils, doesn't lead to anything currently being available to repair those disrupted elastic fibres, getting rid of stretch marks forever. However there is good news, you may notice that initially stretch marks appear purple or reddish in appearance, this is due to the inflammatory process occurring under the skin. Over time these marks may fade to a more silver lighter colour being less noticeable.

Changing the outlook on stretch marks. I think as women we need to learn to embrace these stripes as marks of honour. You’ve just been a human incubator for nine months giving life to little miracle inside. We have to remember that our bodies have gone through significant changes; it doubled its blood supply causing our heart to work harder, we grew a new organ to provide nutrients, our joints became looser in order to shift our bones to make room and our bodies created food. All for a perfect, precious gift at the end. Our bodies are truly amazing so what’s a little stripe here and there?

“‘My body isn’t ruined...Each mark signifies the strength my body used to create you. Each mark demonstrates the miracle that you are. Each mark reminds me just how lucky I am to have you. They may not be pretty but they are mine. And because of them I have you’. ”

References: Wang, F., Calderone, K., Smith, N. R., Do, T. T., Helfrich, Y. R., Johnson, T. R., et al. (2015). Marked disruption and aberrant regulation of elastic fibres in early striae gravidarum. British Journal of Dermatology.


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