Topic: Pregnancy stretch marks cause stress and emotional burden
Participants said the lesions caused similar or more distress than skin conditions like acne or psoriasis.
While stretch marks are commonly associated with pregnancy, the permanency of the skin lesions causes pregnant women and pregnant individuals substantial embarrassment that can negatively impact pregnancy and their quality of life, according to a new study.
Researchers at Michigan Medicine surveyed more than 100 pregnant patients with stretch marks who were considering delivery at Von Voigtlander Women’s hospital. Nearly 75% of the participants reported having moderately or prominently noticeable stretch marks, and more than one-third reported “a lot” or “moderate” embarrassment related to the lesions.
“Women were very concerned about the permanency of lesions, which are often met with negative feelings and self-consciousness,” said Frank Wang, M.D., senior author of the paper and William B. Taylor Endowed Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Michigan Medicine. “The women who reported feeling embarrassed were also more likely to report the lesions impacting other parts of their lives like social activities, self-esteem and clothing choice.”
Wang started studying striae gravidarum, or stretch marks of pregnancy, around 15 years ago. He and his team have searched for the molecular mechanisms that cause the lesions, finding they display substantial changes in collagen and elastic fibers, components of the skin that are responsible for strength and elasticity.
For reasons his team is still investigating, these skin components are damaged and never fully reform, leading to permanent lesions. This unsolved problem was a chief concern reported by 75% of the pregnant women surveyed for the paper published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology.
“While there are some ways to reduce intense redness or texture of stretch marks, there is very little scientific evidence that any intervention completely prevents or treats lesions,” Wang said. “None of these interventions fully erase stretch marks, and they can get very expensive.”
Stretch marks and the concerns for developing them may be contributing factors for depression or anxiety in the perinatal period, which affect up to one in seven women during pregnancy and postpartum, says Megan Lawlor, M.D., a co-author of the paper and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
If uncontrolled or untreated, perinatal depression can lead to adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes,” Lawlor said. “Bringing attention to the emotional and psychological impacts of stretch marks on patients can hopefully help in the identification and treatment of mental health disorders during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.”
Topic Discussed: Pregnancy stretch marks cause stress and emotional burden
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