Prevention Isn't Possible, but Limiting Their Severity Is
Up to 90 percent of women get stretch marks during pregnancy. And, if you’re one of the many women who are predisposed to developing stretch marks, there really isn’t anything you can do to prevent them. But, you can focus on limiting their severity during your pregnancy as well as helping them fade after you deliver.
Limiting the Severity of Pregnancy Stretch Marks
While you can’t prevent stretch marks, especially if you are prone to them, there are some things you can do to help alleviate how severe they become.
Control Your Pregnancy Weight Gain: Gaining too much weight is a huge cause of stretch marks. So, one thing you can do to limit how severe you get them is to control your pregnancy weight gain. Try to only gain the amount recommended by your doctor, which it typically about 25-35 pounds, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, BMI, physical activity level and overall health. You and your OB will most likely discuss this number range during your initial prenatal visit.
A slow and steady pregnancy weight gain can also help keep your stretch marks from getting too out of hand. Try to stick to the weekly weight gain guidelines recommended by your doctor. Remember, this recommendation will vary from woman to woman as it is determined by several different factors.
Stay Hydrated: Getting enough water is vital for a healthy pregnancy, but it can also help lessen your stretch marks as well. Staying hydrated helps keep your skin supple, which makes it more flexible.
Exercise: Getting regular exercise during your pregnancy can help your stretch marks from becoming too severe because it improves your circulation. Good circulation helps your skin to be more elastic, so it will stretch more easily.
If All Else Fails, See a Doctor: If your stretch marks are extremely itchy and are really bothering you during pregnancy, talk to your OB. There might be something your doctor can prescribe that’s stronger than the creams and oils found in stores or online, yet still safe for pregnancy.
Myth or Fact: Stretch Mark Creams and Oils Work
There are a lot of stretch mark creams and oils that many women swear by, like Bio-Oil and cocoa butter. Unfortunately, there isn’t any evidence that these items actually help keep the severity of pregnancy stretch marks at bay. In fact, many medical experts say that these topical aids have no impact on reducing stretch marks because the marks are a result of the underlying skin layers stretching, not the surface skin where the stretch marks actually appear.
These items can, however, help control that pesky and often debilitating itch that accompanies stretch marks, which can be a life saver for many women. So, while lathering up with cocoa butter or other stretch mark oils won’t help the appearance of your stretch marks, they might alleviate your itchy stomach.
Getting Your Stretch Marks to Fade After Pregnancy
Stretch marks typically fade on their own, but if they are still really bothering you after pregnancy, head to a dermatologist, who can help you explore other treatment options, like Retin-A cream or laser treatments.
It’s important to know that while studies show that Retin-A can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, it’s not deemed safe for use during pregnancy. Definitely only use it after you’ve delivered, and to be safe, after you’re finished breastfeeding as well.
Try Not to Fret Over Your Stretch Marks
At the end of the day, up to 90 percent of women have stretch marks from their respective pregnancies, so you are definitely not alone. There’s no need to be ashamed or self-conscious of them. Think of them as your pregnancy badge of honor. They are a beautiful reminder of the nine months you spent carrying and nourishing your little bundle of joy. Be proud of your stretch marks and what they represent.
- WebMD: The Truth About Pregnancy Stretch Marks
- Baby Center: How Can I Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
- Baby Center: Stretch Marks
- Healthline: 7 Tips to Help Prevent Stretch Marks
- American Pregnancy Association: Pregnancy Weight Gain
- American Pregnancy Association: What Can Be Done to Prevent Stretch Marks?
- Parents: How Can I Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?
- The New York Times: The Claim: Cocoa Butter Can Remove Stretch Marks
Kyle Therese Cranston is a freelance writer and editor. She is the co-editor of the award-winning book series "Mug of Woe" and the author of "All Girls Heart Tiffany" and the "Newcomer's Handbook For Moving to and Living in Boston." When she isn't writing, Kyle enjoys spending time with her husband and two little munchkins.