What causes stretch marks in pregnancy? Are they unavoidable? And more
You’ve learnt to cope with surging hormones and morning sickness. Your expanding tummy is something you’re growing to love. You’re taking your pregnancy vitamins every morning without fail. And now the second trimester is looming, you’re generally feeling a lot better. You might even go as far as to say, in control. Then, just as you’re getting used to all the disruption pregnancy throws at you, lines start to appear on your skin. Across your tummy, around your chest, maybe on your thighs. Hello, pregnancy stretch marks.
Here, we answer some of your key questions about stretch marks in pregnancy.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks develop when your skin stretches too far over a short period of time. Given all the physical changes that come with pregnancy, it’s no great surprise that most women get them.
As your body expands, elastic fibres and collagen beneath your skin over-extend, causing tiny tears to develop. With elasticity lost, your skin’s support structure is less able to bounce back. And, as a result, on the surface stretch marks start showing up.
Not everyone gets pregnancy stretch marks – why’s that?
It’s true, not everyone gets stretch marks. But they are very common. In fact, pregnancy stretch marks affect around 8 out of 10 women.1
Whether you get them is very much down to your genes. In simple terms, if your mother got through pregnancy without gaining a single line, you’re more likely to do the same. If she gained stretch marks, you may do so as well.
But genetics aside, you’re also more likely to develop lines if your weight gain is bigger and faster than average. For this reason, maintaining a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy is one thing you can do to reduce stretch marks.
When do stretch marks appear in pregnancy?
You may notice your skin feeling itchy first. This is often an early warning sign of stretch marks. And even if you haven’t got that tell-tale itch, looking at the statistics, it probably feels like it’s only a matter of time before your stripes turn up.
Pregnancy stretch marks typically appear on your tummy, breasts and sometimes on the upper thighs. When they make their mark differs from woman to woman. However, between 13 weeks and 21 weeks is a popular time. That’s just as your baby bump usually starts to form.
Do stretch marks disappear once you’ve had a baby?
First, stretch marks aren’t harmful, so there’s no need to panic when you see them.
They vary in colour and will change over time. Often, they will start out pink, red, brown or purple. Later, once your baby is born, you may start to see a reduction in the appearance of any marks naturally.
They’re likely to fade to a silvery, grey colour. So, although they may not completely disappear (it’s extremely difficult to completely get rid of stretch marks), they’re likely to become a lot less noticeable in time.
Do stretch marks fade if you use the right cream?
Your lines will change and fade over time without stretch mark creams or any form of treatment. However, you’ll see many skincare products that boast of powers to fade lines and others that promise to prevent stretch marks. Unfortunately, there’s very little evidence to say any form of stretch mark cream will actually work.
When you consider stretch marks are the result of tiny tears in the tissue network supporting your skin, you can see how difficult it would be for a topical cream to repair this damage. Realistically, a cream is unlikely to build new collagen and repair ruptured fibres.
So, should I hold off from buying a stretch mark cream?
It depends on your expectations. If you’re pinning your hopes on a cream to answer how to avoid stretch marks in pregnancy, you may be disappointed. Unfortunately preventing stretch marks in pregnancy is not something any cream (however pricey) can control.
But, consistent use of super moisturising formulations may promote your skin’s natural barrier, which can improve the condition and appearance of skin. However, a specific pregnancy stretch mark cream isn’t necessary – some research suggests a standard moisturiser can be equally as effective.
And finally, don’t panic
Stretch marks aren’t harmful and it’s completely normal to get them. And when it comes to tackling stretch marks, without a doubt, the greatest healer is time.
Last updated: 2 April 2020