More than half of pregnant women (up to 90% in some studies!) get stretch marks and almost all women hate them.
Yes, it’s true, we should accept our bodies, stretch marks, scars, and all …
But still, most women would prefer to have a stretch mark free pregnancy.
The clinical term for stretch marks that develop during pregnancy is striae gravidarum (aka stripes of pregnancy).
It’s not just the stretch of the skin that causes stretch marks. Researchers think the many hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy contribute as well. Stretch marks usually make their first appearance in the 6th or 7th month of pregnancy but can start peeking out in the first trimester, when your skin isn’t even stretching that much (showing that these researchers are on to something).
The most obvious place stretch marks occur is the abdomen. Your breasts and thighs are next common. Don’t be surprised for every where in between too (hips, butt, arms, etc).
The biggest predictor of getting stretch marks?
Genetics. Ask your mom and sister if they got stretch marks with their pregnancies. If they did, you’re likely to also.
Other whammies against you:
- if you already have stretch marks, from puberty, other pregnancies, or times of rapid weight gain, you’re likely to develop more of them
- non-white people. Connective tissue composition varies among race, making some females more susceptible based on race alone
- if you gain excessive weight during pregnancy you may get more stretch marks. That’s pretty obvious. Your skin will need to stretch to accommodate not only your expanding uterus but even more excess (ie fat). The more the stretch, the higher the risk for stretch marks.
Stretch marks are permanent.
They start as pink / violet lines (which can itch like crazy), then eventually fade into a white / silvery color. The pin shows the white / silvery color, in case you can’t tell.
A daily question for me? What can I do to prevent stretch marks?
First, weight gain.
- Eat healthy, and gain the appropriate amount of weight. This may help prevent stretch marks, but even more important, will lead to an overall healthier pregnancy.
Second, creams / lotions / etc:
So many marketed products, which one to choose?
- There are two creams that have been shown to possibly reduce stretch marks during pregnancy: Trofolastin, a cream containing a combination of Centella asiastica extract (a parsley plant relative that also goes by the name gotu kola), vitamin E, and collagen elastin hydrolysates, helped, in one study, to prevent stretch marks in high risk women (in women who already has stretch marks from puberty).
- Verum ointment (containing vitamin E and hyaluronic acid) may help reduce stretch marks as well. This study had women massage the ointment into their abdomen versus no ointment / no massage … so it’s hard to tell if the Verum ointment is what helped, or the massage itself.
Don’t run to Larchmont Beauty Supply asking for these specialty creams though – they aren’t available in the US. It’s difficult even to order over the internet.
Newer information shows hyaluronic acid may be helpful. It may cost a pretty penny, but it’s worth a try!
In studies, cocoa butter was not effective in preventing stretch marks. Neither was olive oil. With the Trofolastin trifecta mix, we aren’t sure which one of those ingredients helped prevent the stretch marks. Gotu Kola is being marketed more and more as the active ingredient, but studies haven’t exactly shown it works independently.
Overall, keeping your skin hydrated will ease some of the itching and discomfort of your stretching skin (regardless of if that skin has stretch marks or not).
And it just feels good to pamper yourself. I say splurge on the cream / oil / product that you like the best … not because it will prevent stretch marks, but because you deserve to treat yourself.
I am a board certified OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
I am co-founder of Female Health Education, a platform offering digital courses, striving to empower females through health education.
My passion is promoting and demystifying health information to the public. My blog, Dr. Sara Twogood’s LadyParts Blog, provides comprehensive information about fertility, pregnancy, and gynecology topics. I am on the medical board for the period tracker app Flo; contribute as a medical expert for pregnancy app and website The Bump; and serve on the Byrdie Beauty and Wellness Review Board (Byrdie.com). I have been featured as an expert for the podcasts The Dream and Her body, Her Story and quoted in numerous online and print publications.
I am honored to be named “Top Doctor” in Los Angeles magazine for years.