Stretch Marks and Pregnancy

Can I prevent or remove pregnancy-related stretch mark?

Pregnant young woman lying on bed, rubbing cream into stomach
Jonathan Storey/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Nearly every woman dreads them.

Most won't talk about them.

Striae gravidarum, or stretch marks are probably the most discussed and feared of the changes to the body during pregnancy.

What Are Stretch Marks?

These marks appear in 50 - 90% of all pregnant women, usually showing up in the later half of pregnancy as bright red lines, sometimes even purplish. While the majority will be on the lower abdomen they can also be found on the thighs, hips, buttocks, breasts and arms of women.

They occur because your body is growing faster than your skin can stretch, and so elastic fibers under the surface of your skin break -- causing scarring.

Stretch marks tend to be pinkish in light skinned women, and in dark skinned women they will be lighter than the surrounding skin after pregnancy. They are most likely to appear if you grow rapidly; while you can't control the process of pregnancy, you have some control over weight gain related to nutrition. While not painful, the stretching of the skin may cause a tingling or itchy sensation.

Can You Prevent or Remove Stretch Marks?

A good lotion can help with the increased dryness or itchiness of the skin, but will not prevent stretch marks no matter how diligent you are or how much you spend on the cream.

While many people will swear by certain creams or lotions, the truth is there is not much you can do about stretch marks, you'll either get them or you won't.

There are some factors that you should know contribute to stretch marks:

  • Family (If your mom or sister has them, guess what?)
  • If you had them in a previous pregnancy you may get them again, although usually just a darkened (temporarily) of the old ones and a light extension sometimes.
  • Weight Gain (Rapid or excessive will make this worse.)
  • Nutritional Status (Well hydrated and healthy skin stretches better.)
  • Ethnicity (African American women get them less.)

What Happens to Stretch Marks After You Give Birth?

So, what now? Well, eventually they do fade after you have the baby, becoming silver lines. While most women don't think about them much, or consider them badges of motherhood, others want them removed. There are new techniques and surgeries being explored all the time. Talk to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon if you are concerned.

What Mothers Say

Theresa affectionately calls them, "Badges of honor."

"I don't want to talk about it." Mom of two with #3 on the way.

"They really aren't what I expected," says Amanda, first time mom due in May.

After her second baby Kristin says, "The marks started out so bright in color, I never thought that they would fade, but they really did become nearly invisible after she was about 6 months old. I can even get away with a bikini!"

"All the lotion in the world didn't stop it, I had one tiny mark at the bottom where I couldn't see it until after the baby was born. I do feel like the lotion kept them to a minimum," explains Elizabeth mom to 2 month old Gabrielle.

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