All About Pregnancy Stretch Marks

Most women get stretch marks during pregnancy. They’re a sign that your skin has stretched as your body grows to accommodate your baby. You can’t completely prevent stretch marks from appearing, but there are some things you can do to help reduce the chances of getting them. Plus, don’t worry too much because stretch marks usually fade with time.

What Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks look like lines or streaks across the skin that can be pink, red, purple or brown. They usually start off darker and fade over time. The medical term is 'striae gravidarum', which is Latin for ‘stripes of pregnancy’.

Stretch marks typically appear on your tummy, breasts and upper thighs as your pregnancy progresses and your bump starts to grow. They are very common, particularly during pregnancy, affecting around 8 out of 10 pregnant women. Did you know: about 50 percent of women have stretch marks by the time they finish puberty, so you’re definitely not alone!

Whenever your skin is stretched, you are more likely to experience stretch marks. They happen when the middle layer of skin (dermis) is stretched and broken in places.

Hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy can affect your skin and make you more susceptible to get stretch marks.

It’s important to keep in mind that stretch marks are not harmful. They are not known to cause any medical problems and there is no specific treatment for them. Once your baby is born, they will likely gradually fade into paler lines and become less noticeable over time.

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What Causes Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?

Genetics plays a role in whether you get stretch marks, and how visible they are. If you have fair skin, they may be more visible. You are more likely to get them if you are a young mum, if you put on a lot of weight quickly during the pregnancy, or if you are expecting multiples.

You may be more likely to get stretch marks in general if you

  • lose or gain weight quickly

  • are female

  • are overweight

  • use some kinds of steroid creams or tablets.

Other indicators you may experience stretch marks during pregnancy include if you’ve had these marks before being pregnant, or if other members of your family have them. Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy can also make the skin a little thinner, making some women more susceptible.

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When Do Stretch Marks Appear in Pregnancy?

You might be wondering when stretch marks appear during pregnancy, but it is different for every woman. Stretch marks often appear later during pregnancy as the skin stretches as a result of weight gain, and to accommodate the growing baby and uterus. Some women will start to get them in the second trimester, while others may not notice them until the last few weeks of the third trimester. Some women don’t get any at all.

How to Avoid Stretch Marks During Pregnancy

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to completely prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, and there’s no miracle stretch mark cream that makes them go away. Here are some ways to help reduce the risk of getting them, and to help soothe any itchy skin:

  • Moisturising your skin liberally and often.

  • Limit bathing your entire body to 2 to 3 times a week. But be sure to wash your armpits and genital area daily during a strip wash.

  • Pat your skin dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing.

  • Avoid washing products that contain strong detergents or perfumes.

  • Use pH-balanced washes or mild soaps.

  • Avoid getting too hot, including hot baths and showers.

  • Try calamine cream or lotion if the itch is particularly stubborn.

One of the main ways known to help reduce stretch marks is eating a healthy pregnancy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin E, vitamin C, and the minerals zinc and silicon – all of which work together to keep your skin healthy.

Is it Possible to Get Rid of Stretch Marks After Pregnancy?

Stretch marks may not disappear completely, but after the pregnancy is over, they can eventually become a less noticeable silver colour. Indulging in a massage might help you relax and feel better, but be mindful of any misleading claims about the ability of any creams, lotions and oils to remove or prevent stretch marks.

That being said, there are certain treatments that can improve the appearance of your stretch marks. But they won’t get rid of them entirely.

These include:

  • Hyaluronic acid. When used on new stretch marks, hyaluronic acid can sometimes reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Make sure to avoid retinoid creams if you’re pregnant as they may harm your baby.

  • Light or laser treatments. There are plenty of creams out there that claim to minimise or get rid of stretch marks, but the only truly effective treatment is laser therapy. It can be on the expensive side and isn’t suitable for all shades of skin. Lasers work best on pale skin.

  • Microdermabrasion, which removes a thin layer of skin.

You will need to pay for these treatments yourself as they are not available on the NHS. However, feel free to speak to your GP if you have any questions about these treatments.

Ultimately, it’s not always possible to prevent stretch marks. The best way to reduce your chance of getting them is to maintain a healthy weight.

FAQs at a Glance

After your baby is born, you may notice your stretch marks gradually fading into paler scars and becoming less noticeable. However, they are unlikely to ever fully disappear. You may like to view them as a testament to everything your body achieved when creating a baby!

The Bottom Line

You might be worried about the changes your body goes through as a result of pregnancy, but your body’s doing an incredible job protecting your little one as they get ready to meet the world. These stripes are a testament to all you’ve done.

Pregnancy will cause your body to change in a number of ways. Check out our pregnancy calendar to see what you can expect as your foetus grows in the womb.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS).The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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