Does pregnancy cause cellulite?
Pregnancy is a major cause of cellulite for most women today, and this is due to several factors.
Excess estrogen stimulates fat accumulation during pregnancy, especially in the hip and thigh areas, including the subcutaneous thigh and hip fat that causes cellulite.
Also, some water retention is normal during pregnancy. Both excess fat and water have to do with the survival of mother and baby in cases of starvation and severe bleeding, respectively
Connective tissue (skin, ligaments, fascia) becomes looser so that it can accommodate the extra volume in the tummy area and in the fat storage areas of the hips and thighs, and also to ease delivery.
Pregnancy should not cause cellulite
As we have explained elsewhere on this website, all these factors (excess estrogen, water retention, excess fat accumulation, connective tissue laxity) are major causes of cellulite. However, pregnancy need not necessarily cause cellulite - or not a lot at least.
Normally, pregnancy should not lead to excessive weight gain, neither to excessive fluid retention or cellulite, especially if you become pregnant when you are fit and slim. If the availability of calorie-rich food was not so prevalent in today's world and if physical activity was the norm and not the exception, then cellulite wouldn't be such a big problem. Pregnancy-related cellulite, like all other causes of cellulite, could be minimized or eliminated if our lifestyle was more wholesome.
So what can I do to minimise cellulite during pregnancy?
The best way to prevent cellulite during pregnancy is to enter pregnancy whilst being fit, slim and following a wholesome, natural lifestyle. This will ensure that you will not suffer from food cravings and excessive eating and that exercise will not be a burden but a fun activity that you enjoy and that does not make you overly tired.
Entering pregnancy whilst being overweight, unfit and with bad eating habits, will usually increase food cravings, weight gain, inactivity, fluid retention and cellulite - especially in combination with the consumption of foods rich in sugar and excessive carbs, salt and saturated fat. These foods are not what nature intended as the human being's staples, and during pregnancy they are as bad for you as they are at any other time of your life.
The best foods to eat to avoid water retention during pregnancy are berry fruits, oily fish and, most importantly, vegetables. Fast and/or uphill walking is the best exercise during pregnancy, as it boosts your metabolism, maintains your cardiovascular fitness and, as an added bonus, helps ensure a quick labour. In those respects (including the more effortless labour) good, old-fashioned walking is much better than yoga, contrary to what the magazines routinely tell you...
So if you love babies but you hate cellulite the advice I have for you is very simple: get fit and lose weight before you get pregnant. And when you do get pregnant continue with the exercise and the healthy eating habits - adapted for pregnancy of course. If you can afford it, you are also advised to have regular anti-cellulite treatments during pregnancy. And this brings us to the next question...
How about cellulite treatments and creams during pregnancy? Are they safe? Do they work?
Preventative anti-cellulite massages are as helpful during pregnancy as they are before or after pregnancy and do assist in preventing cellulite and water retention if they are provided by a knowledgeable therapist. Pressotherapy is another effective method to minimise water retention during pregnancy, and just like cellulite massage it is absolutely safe when it is applied on the legs and hips only.
Naturally, a healthy lifestyle will boost the preventative power of these treatments. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle combined with comfort food eating habits during pregnancy will make cellulite massages and pressotherapy treatments an absolute necessity rather than a luxury. Other, more effective cellulite treatments, such as ultrasound, radiofrequency or electro-mesotherapy are not safe during pregnancy.
Anti-cellulite creams are not recommended during pregnancy due to the theoretical danger of active ingredients from the cream finding their way into the blood circulation and being absorbed by the foetus. However, with the tiny amounts of active ingredients most anti-cellulite creams contain this remains more of a theoretical rather than a real danger. The main problem with these creams is that due to the low amount of actives they simply don't work...
I have difficulty finding a therapist who is willing to provide cellulite treatments to me during pregnancy. Why is that?
Unfortunately in today's litigious society pregnant women find it difficult to have access to a variety of services, including massages and other treatments. This is because most therapists try to cover themselves from unfair lawsuits directed at them in the case of an unfortunate incident during pregnancy.
The truth is that a manual lower leg, thigh & hip cellulite massage provided by a knowledgeable therapist with a massage oil or a cream that does not contain any active ingredients, cannot possibly cause any problem to the health of the foetus or the mother, and such fears are totally unfounded. The exact same contraindications for leg and buttock cellulite massages that apply to non-pregnant women also apply to pregnant women, and as long as these are taken into account then cellulite massages are absolutely safe. Period.
We routinely used to treat mothers-to-be from the beginning of the pregnancy all the way to the 37th week with no problems whatsoever. Cellulite-specific massages are indeed safe and effective during pregnancy - all you have to do is find a therapist with enough knowledge, confidence and experience who will be happy to provide such a treatment.
Can post-pregnancy cellulite treatments help me regain my skin elasticity and reduce cellulite?
Absolutely. The same principles that apply to cellulite reduction for any other time in your life also apply to pregnancy. Healthy diet, regular vigorous exercise and a course of cellulite treatments will all help reduce cellulite, water retention and skin looseness, especially when combined together. Moreover, after lactation you are free to have the more effective cellulite treatments (high power monopolar radiofrequency, high power ultrasound cavitation) and a concentrated cellulite cream with multiple actives, for faster results.
When can I start having cellulite treatments and use cellulite creams after pregnancy?
You can start receiving cellulite treatments from the second week after pregnancy provided your overall health allows you to. If you feel weak and exhausted there is not point receiving cellulite treatments - your leg appearance is not as important as your overall health is.
Breast-feeding is not a problem with regards to cellulite massages. However, stronger cellulite treatments that release fat (such as radiofrequency and cavitation) and anti-cellulite creams are not allowed during the period that you breastfeed for the same reasons that they are not allowed during pregnancy: you do not want your baby to absorb any anti-cellulite ingredients that can theoretically find their way into breast milk. And you do not want released toxins previously dissolved in your fat cells to also find their way into the baby's milk. As soon as you stop breastfeeding you can start using cellulite creams and stronger, fat-releasing treatments, to maximise the effectiveness of your treatments.
Another factor you have to take into consideration is your ability to follow a healthy yet strict diet and exercise regime in combination with your course of treatments. The more you can follow such a regime whilst having cellulite treatments, the more pronounced the effects of such treatments will be, making your course of treatments a better value for your money.
However, if you cannot exercise for practical reasons (injury, health reasons, lack of time, no nanny to take care of the baby etc.), anti-cellulite treatments and creams will still be helpful in improving your appearance and confidence - but will offer less value for money.