The best time to treat stretch marks is before they happen – this is definitely a situation where prevention is better than cure.
These thin red streaks that can form on the abdomen, thighs, breasts, hips, buttocks, and on the tops of your arms are a form of scarring. They are due to a weakening or breakdown of the underlying fibres in the skin.
Once these fibres have been overstretched they will not go back to normal even when your size does, but the marks will fade from red to silver.
From the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy you should massage a small amount of anti-stretch mark oil or anti-stretch mark cream gently over the hips, stomach, thighs, and breasts, paying attention to any area that feels particularly taught. This can also help to relieve the tightness and itching that comes with rapid weight gain.
The following recipes are recommended for daily massage, or a good-quality bought oil blend or cream can be used.
Anti-stretch mark oil (recipe taken from Aromatherapy and massage for mother and baby by Allison England)
To 80 ml (4 tbsp) of almond oil and 20 ml (1 tbsp) of avocado oil, add 7 drops of Lavender and 5 drops of Neroli oil, or 7 drops of Lavender and 5 drops of Mandarin or Tangerine oil, or 7 drops of Mandarin or Tangerine and 5 drops of Neroli oil.
Anti-stretch mark cream (recipe taken from Aromatherapy A-Z by Patricia Davis)
50 grams of infused Calendula oil 35 grams of cocoa butter 10 grams beeswax, 45 grams flower hydrolat (flower water) 10 drops Mandarin oil, 15 drops Neroli oil
Method: Weigh all ingredients accurately. (Shred beeswax with a very sharp knife before weighing.) Put the Mandarin and Neroli oils in a bowl which should be either stainless steel or Pyrex, and add the beeswax. Put the flower water in another bowl and stand both bowls in a large shallow pan of water over a gentle heat. Stir the bowl containing the oils and beeswax until all the ingredients are melted, then remove from heat.
Start adding the flower-water mixture to the oil mixture, a drop or two at a time while beating with a rotary whisk. Continue to add the flower water very gradually, beating all the time, as if making a mayonnaise.
When all the flower-water has been absorbed into the oil/wax mixture, stop beating at once. If using an electric mixer, set it on the lowest speed, as overbeating can make the cream separate.
Finally, stir in the essential oil and put it into a jar or jars. Leave in a cold place or fridge until set.
These amounts make a relatively small amount of cream. Once you have mastered the technique, you can double or triple the quantities to make larger batches. The creams will keep for quite a long time, as the essential oils act as natural preservatives, but if making large batches, keep in the fridge until needed and then dispense small amounts into individual jars.
After the birth of your baby, carry on using the oil or cream until your weight and figure get back to normal as, surprisingly, stretch marks can also occur when weight is decreasing.