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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Scars and Stripes Forever: Stretch Marks Are Warrior Wounds

Scars and Stripes Forever: Stretch Marks Are Warrior Wounds

Women have been ashamed of stretch marks for so long that no one even remembers why they became so shameful. The thing is, most people don’t actually know a lot about them. They only know that if they have them, they don’t like them, and they try to hide them. For instance, most people don’t know that there are various names for stretch marks, or that they are caused by a wide variety of things. Stretch marks don’t mean you’re a fat, lazy slob. They don’t, in fact, mean that you’re physically a woman, either. Stretch marks can occur on all humans, regardless of their gender.

The stretch marks obtained during pregnancy are called striae gravidarum. Not only are they caused by distension of the skin because of the growth of the fetus, they are also caused by the normal hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. The skin simply becomes less elastic. This is not something any childbearing woman should be ashamed of. There is nothing shameful in bearing a child. When a woman goes through childbirth, her body is going to change, no matter what she tries to do to limit those changes. If the way your body looks is more important to you than bringing a new life into the world, you’re far better off opting out of parenthood altogether.

Pregnancy striae form not only on the abdomen, but also on the hips, thighs, breasts and buttocks. Anywhere from 50%-90% of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Also, just because a woman doesn’t get them during a first pregnancy does not mean she won’t get them during a second pregnancy. The thing is, when it comes to marks and scars of these types, you must consider everything that it took to get those marks. A woman who gives birth to a child has been put through a physical wringer. She is a warrior of the highest order, and those marks are badges of honor and courage. Yes, courage. Giving birth to a child is no easy feat.

There is a good reason it takes humans nine months to gestate and give birth. If we were to do so instantly, without the nine months of preparation of our bodies, labor and delivery would be fatal. Not just for the mother, but also for the fetus. During pregnancy women are subjected to a chemical stew. Hormones are shunted to various parts of the body for various reasons. One of those hormones is relaxin, which loosens ligaments and joints in preparation not only for carrying a baby, but also for delivery. A woman’s pelvis is simply not wide enough without this process. The whole body must widen to accommodate a fetus. Without this gradual widening, the fetus would not only get compressed within the womb, but would also not be allowed to pass through the pelvis.

The hormones responsible for stretch marks, which are glucocorticoid hormones, prevent the processes that are necessary to keep growing skin taut. They do this by preventing fibroblast from forming collagen and elastin fibres within the dermis. This leads to tearing within the dermis. Now, if you stop to think the things that are going on in the human body at any given moment, and then add pregnancy changes to that list, you must realize that the human body can only withstand so much strain. The mechanical force being applied to the skin becomes too much for the skin to handle, and it literally tears.

Stretch marks are scars, like any other scar. They happen when the body goes through traumas and pressures that are too much for it. That means a body with stretch marks is one that has had to work harder at something than a body that doesn’t have them. Many people, regardless of gender, get stretch marks during puberty. It’s a time of rapid growth and expansion, not to mention hormonal changes, and no one is immune to it. Body builders get stretch marks from increasing muscle mass so quickly – or simply so hugely – that their skin just can’t handle it. Obesity can be a factor in the appearance of stretch marks, but then so can rapid weight loss.

There are many models and celebrities with stretch marks. Some of them have spoken openly about the changes they experienced during pregnancy. Some simply grew too quickly during puberty. There are now blogs out there that discuss stretch marks openly, some talking about how proud they are, but most complaining that they can’t stand theirs. There’s a vast ocean of salves and ointments marketed directly to women with stretch marks, claiming that their product can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. They’re not allowed to claim that they can get rid of them, because it would be a blatant falsehood. The most promising treatment for stretch marks is laser treatment. Even that has its limitations. The truth is, once you have them, you are more than likely going to have to live with them for the rest of your life.

The only sure cure for stretch marks is to eradicate our hatred of them. They are not something we get from being bad people. There is no shameful behavior on our part that should be tied to striae in any way. For those of us who have children, and in particular who have children that might one day bear children of their own, a healthy attitude toward so-called body flaws is a must. Feminism insists that we find joy in ourselves as we are. That includes our scars.

Written by Rain Stickland
Follow her blog, Torrential Rain, or her Twitter!

  • ariel

    “Stretch marks don’t mean you’re a fat, lazy slob”

    this was kind of insensitive/fat phobic because they’re putting the words fat and lazy together as a pair, almost as if they naturally go hand in hand. besides that it was a great article

  • Dez

    I don’t consider giving birth a war. I didn’t read the article.

  • Tina

    If you don’t want to have stretch marks, just don’t give birth. It’s that easy.
    I don’t think I’m brainwashed by society, just because I think it looks ugly.
    Some people are lucky to have good genes, but I’m not one of them. So I won’t give birth (anyway .. I don’t like kids …).
    And some people are lucky to find stretch marks nice, but I’m not one of them. I think we need to face the truth: most people find it ugly. What’s so wrong about that?