Short answer: Stretch marks can form on a pregnant woman’s abdomen, breasts, front and rear thighs, lower back, buttocks, arms — anywhere one gains weight during pregnancy. If breast feeding, the damage can continue as post-pregnancy breasts expand and contract with milk.
As a woman’s body expands with pregnancy weight, she might notice those first few off-color lines trailing along her upper belly. But chances are she’ll also be thinking about prenatal doctor visits, vitamins, diet and exercise. With so many pre-pregnancy details running through her brain, she won’t have time to consider the post pregnancy implications.
Those off-color lines often seen on a pregnant belly are striae gravidarum AKA stretch marks. Chances are the ones a woman sees on her upper abdomen are just the beginning of a condition that could affect areas from thighs to upper arms. And while traditional descriptions can make them sound like a minor annoyance, stretch marks can cause mild to severe scarring of the skin.
Stretch marks are a complicated side effect which occurs when heredity mixes with a few of these hormonal and body changes brought about by pregnancy.
- Skin “priming” by the hormone relaxin
- Increase in corticosteroids
- A weakening and rupture of dermal elastic fibers
- A breakdown or fraying of collagen
More Than Just a Few Belly Lines
Wouldn’t it be great if stretch marks were just a few faint belly lines and nothing more? Unfortunately for many women, it’s often more widespread than that. They can form on a pregnant woman’s abdomen, breasts, front and rear thighs, lower back, buttocks, arms–anywhere one gains weight during pregnancy. If breast feeding, the damage can continue as post-pregnancy breasts expand and contract with milk.
Most Won’t Tell a Pregnant Woman She Has Stretch Marks
Friends will talk about pregnancy issues, including stretch marks. A mother might caution her pregnant daughter to take care of her dry stretching skin. But since pregnant women tend to stay away from revealing outfits, friends aren’t likely to notice once the lines have actually formed. If they do notice, they might not mention it for fear of triggering a bout of hormonal tears.
If a man is paying attention to his mate’s body, he might notice those funny lines running across her skin. But he’s not likely to mention them either. A pregnant woman might never know the extent of her problem until she’s standing before a full length mirror long after the baby weight has finally faded away. Then the damage to her skin might take her completely by surprise.
Severe Stretch Marks Can Change a Woman’s Self Image
As a woman’s body shrinks to its pre-pregnancy size, she may notice that her skin texture isn’t quite right or that the surface has a web of visible ruts and deep lines. Even if she’d been warned about stretch marks or read an article or two about them, she might not recognize those simple descriptions as the network of distorted lines she’s seeing on her own body.
For other women the problem can be minor, but because even minor stretch marks can involve her entire body–her abdomen, breasts, front and rear thighs, lower back, buttocks, arms–they can damage one’s self image.
Bikini season will reveal all
If stretch marks are severe–discolored, thick, indented, or protruding–a woman might begin a stretch mark cover-up habit that could last a lifetime. That could mean no bikinis, no spaghetti straps, and perhaps no bathing suits ever.
If a woman’s stretch marks are minimal-a network of slightly discolored lines–she might not discover them all until just before bikini season. When she’s checking out her full body reflection in the brightly illuminated dressing room mirror. When one can’t help but notice every inch of exposed skin, nothing is secret. An obvious pattern of lines across the abdomen, thighs, rear and breasts might cause one to put bikini fitting session on hold forever.