Although each pregnancy is different for every woman, there is something most women have in common: stretch marks. About 90 percent of pregnant women develop stretch marks. Stretch marks are red, whitish, or purple streaks in the skin. They occur when skin is stretched too much over a short period of time. The elastic fibers just below the skin tear, leaving streaks of indented skin. The elastic fibers are also weakened by hormones present during pregnancy.
Factors that may increase your chance of stretch marks during pregnancy include:
- Family history of stretch marks
- Being overweight or obese
- Rapidly gaining or losing weight
- Rapid muscle gain
- Rapid growth
- Using corticosteroid medications
- Certain medical conditions, such as adrenal gland disorders
Stretch marks are red or purple streaks that are slightly indented. They eventually turn whitish in color. They are most common on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, and breasts, but may also occur in other areas. The stretched skin may also be dry or itchy.
Most stretch marks fade over time without treatment. Some people may want faster results or deeper fading of stretch marks. In general, the current treatments are limited and do not work well. Factors that will affect your treatment options include:
- Age of stretch marks
- Convenience of treatment- may require multiple sessions
- Cost - usually not covered by medical insurance
- Expectations and outcomes
Treatment options include:
Medications - tretinoin cream may help to lessen the appearance of stretch marks. It is most effective on stretch marks that are less than 6 weeks old and still red or pink in color. However, it should not be used during pregnancy!
Laser Therapy - this can stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin. It may decrease the appearance of stretch marks.
Unfortunately, there are no proven methods for preventing stretch marks, but staying within recommended weight gain guidelines during pregnancy may help. If you are pregnant, maintain a healthy weight. Lotions have not been proven to prevent stretch marks but may be helpful to moisturize and soothe itchiness.
While most stretch marks will fade after birth, some may never completely disappear. Having stretch marks can also be a sign of the miracle of childbirth, you can be proud that your body grew and carried a baby. So mamas, wear those stretch marks proudly!