How to treat postpartum stretch marks
While some body changes may be inevitable after pregnancy, stretch marks can be treated, say two Upstate doctors.
Factors contributing to formation of stretch marks include genetics, being overweight, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, a large baby and having more than one baby, said Dr. Adrienne Ellis with Pelham Center for Women in Greer.
“Interestingly, increased age actually seems to protect some against developing stretch marks,” Ellis said. “If you are under 20, you have an 88 percent chance of developing stretch marks, but if you are over 30 then you only have a 24 percent chance of stretch marks developing.”
Ellis does not feel there is sufficient evidence to prove that over-the-counter creams prevent stretch marks. However, creams containing centella extracts and vitamin E may help, Dr. Hina Anjum, a family physician at Foothills Family Medicine in Boiling Springs, said.
Both Ellis and Anjum agreed prescription topical tretinoin creams, like Retin-A, can be effective.
“Several months of daily application is usually required, and skin irritation is common,” Anjum said. “We have had the most success with topical retinoids in patients, when started soon after the development of stretch marks. Typically, a very thin layer of tretinoin is applied once nightly to affected areas for several months.”
Ellis noted an unpleasant side effect of tretinoin cream: “a red, itchy, scaly rash that can actually cause darkening of the skin, especially in women who have light-brown to dark-brown skin.”
Also, Ellis said moms should wait until after pregnancy and breast-feeding to start tretinoin cream treatment because of safety concerns for babies.
Another method that Ellis and Anjum consider effective is superficial dermabrasion.
“Laser therapies and superficial dermabrasion also can result in significant improvement in stretch marks,” Ellis said.
“The side effects are similar to the tretinoin cream, but are less frequent, especially with dermabrasion.”
Anjum said a study found results were comparable when women used 16 weekly sessions of superficial dermabrasion or 16 weeks of daily-use of tretinoin cream.
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