Pregnancy and Cellulite

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Pregnancy Cellulite

The same physical changes that contribute to a healthy pregnancy can also promote the temporary appearance of cellulite, a skin condition that causes your skin to look dimpled and lumpy. While it’s perfectly normal to develop cellulite during pregnancy, there are ways you can minimize the condition during and after pregnancy.

Why does cellulite happen during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, the body’s primary focus is developing a healthy baby. Your body produces higher levels of the hormone estrogen, which encourages the accumulation of fat. At the same time, your skin loosens to make room for your growing stomach and, as it stretches causes fat cells to bulge and become more visible. Increasing fluid levels in your body contribute to water retention, while ligaments loosen in preparation for birth, further helping skin to pucker and sag. As a result, cellulite may appears on your hips, thighs, stomach, and arms. While cellulite sometimes lingers after you give birth, it is possible to reduce its appearance and restore muscle tone.

What can you do to minimize cellulite?

The best way to minimize cellulite during pregnancy is to live a healthy lifestyle before you become pregnant. That means eating healthy foods, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Bad eating habits tend to become worse during pregnancy, when you’re extra tired and have intense cravings. So, preemptively cutting unnecessary carbs, salt and fat in your diet before pregnancy, can make it easier to eat wisely when you are pregnant. Having good muscle tone before pregnancy can also help minimize cellulite.

Eating wisely during pregnancy can help you avoid gaining too much weight. A healthy prenatal diet should consist of lean protein, whole grain foods, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Talk to your doctor about how many calories you should be eating, what nutrients you now need, and how much weight you should gain. Extra weight gained during pregnancy not only leads to cellulite but can be difficult to lose once your baby is born.

Exercise is essential. Morning sickness, fatigue and coping with a quickly changing body make exercise challenging, but it’s better to adjust your regimen than to abandon it. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are recommended during pregnancy and how you might moderate your workout to make it more workable. For example, if you ran before pregnancy but no longer feel up to it, try walking every day. You can lift light weights to keep your arms toned and do simple stretching exercises. Safe and productive exercises during pregnancy include swimming, stationary cycling, or low-impact aerobics.

After pregnancy, the same regimen of healthy eating and exercise can help you lose any extra pregnancy weight, regain muscle tone and reduce any lingering cellulite. Talk to your doctor about when you can safely resume your normal exercise routine, but be sure to pace yourself, and slowly get yourself back in shape. Scheduling time to exercise with a new baby can be tricky. If it’s hard to get away on your own, try taking the baby out for a long walk in the stroller. Some babies are also happy to lie on the floor next to you while exercise.

How safe are cellulite treatments?

Some of the commercially available treatments for cellulite reduction are not considered safe during pregnancy, however you can safely get a light massage. Besides temporarily reducing the appearance of cellulite, a light massage can improve circulation and reduce stress. Make sure your therapist is qualified and has experience treating pregnant women.

Another relatively safe cellulite treatment is pressotherapy, which reduces water retention by using air pressure on different parts of the body. Pressotherapy is only considered safe during pregnancy, if it’s limited to the legs and hips. It must be performed before 37 weeks and by a qualified professional.

Mesotherapy, which features a series of injected supplements, is not recommended during pregnancy and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, has not been proven to work. Ultrasound, which uses low frequency sound waves, is also not recommended and has also not been proven to work. While some anti-cellulite creams have been shown to produce improvements, the creams may also contain ingredients that can negatively affect your baby. Some cellulite creams contain caffeine and other stimulants, to draw water from the cells, while others contain ingredients that can worsen asthma or cause an allergic reaction. It’s best to avoid anti-cellulite creams for the duration of your pregnancy.

Cellulite can worsen during pregnancy, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. It you work at avoiding unnecessary weight gain, eat well, and exercise enough to keep muscles toned, the appearance of cellulite will likely improve after pregnancy.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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