Stretch Marks in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Young pregnant woman applying moisturizer on her belly.
Kristian sekulic/E+/Getty Images

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are the separation of collagen of the skin. While not painful, the stretching of the skin may cause a tingling or itchy sensation. Stretch marks occur in about 50-90% of pregnant women. Typically they show up in the lower abdomen during pregnancy, but you may also find them on your thighs, arms, breasts, and buttocks. Stretch marks are more commonly found at the end of pregnancy.

Some people got stretch marks when they hit puberty. If you fell into this category you may or may not get more stretch marks, or get stretch marks in different places.​

Causes of Stretch Marks in Pregnancy

There are many reasons that you may be more or less likely to have stretch marks. Some of them have to do with your current pregnancy, some have to do with your health, and other factors. Here are the biggest factors in whether or not you will get stretch marks:

  • Family history of stretch marks will make it more likely that you will get stretch marks.
  • If you had them in a previous pregnancy you may get them again, although usually just a darkened (temporarily) of the old stretch marks and a slight extension sometimes.
  • Weight Gain - Rapid or excessive weight gain will make stretch marks more likely to happen and the ones you have worse. Remember, slow and steady tends to wins the race.
  • Multiple Pregnancy - the more babies, the more likely they are to get stretch marks because the bigger your uterus and abdomen will get.
  • Well hydrated and healthy skin stretches more than skin that isn't healthy. This isn't something that lotions or creams will cure, but they do help your skin feel better.
  • Ethnicity (African American women have fewer than caucasian counterparts.)

Prevention of Stretch Marks

You do have some influence over stretch marks, but not always enough to completely prevent them.

There are plenty of people who will tell you that you can prevent stretch marks by buying their products, don't believe it. Much of what you read will be hype, don't fall victim to it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Here are things you can do to decrease the likelihood that you'll get stretch marks, which is different than prevention:

  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Moisturize your belly.
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Avoid excessive or rapid weight gain.

Pregnancy causes many changes in the skin. Stretch marks are just one of many.​

Postpartum Stretch Marks

You may wonder if stretch marks appear after pregnancy. Typically you won't get new stretch marks postpartum unless you continue to gain weight. Shortly after birth , these stretch marks will begin to fade.  The lines will turn a silvery but not very noticeable color. In future pregnancies, they may become temporarily darker. You may not get any new stretch marks, depending on weight gain and how you carry. Sometimes you will notice a slight lengthening of a stretch mark in a subsequent pregnancy.