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Preventing Stretch Marks

Preventing stretch marks may not be entirely possible. Most pregnant women get stretch marks, however, there are remedies meant to reduce or prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. None of them always prevent stretch marks for all pregnant women.

Preventing stretch marks, known medically as striae or striae gravidarum, is a common goal for many women druing pregnancy. Stretch marks are caused by the stress put on the skin to stretch as the body grows rapidly, and possibly by the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Stretch marks are actually scars from the middle layers of the skin being torn because the skin is not flexible enough to accommodate the rapid growth of pregnancy. They look like indented streaks, usually glossy pink, red, or brown depending on the woman's skin color. Stretch marks occur most often on the belly and breasts as these areas grow rapidly during pregnancy, but they can also occur on other parts of the body such as the thighs and hips. Though they may be itchy at first, they are not considered a serious health problem. After delivery they fade, though they may not completely disappear. Preventing stretch marks entirely may not be possible.

Though no method has been proven to prevent stretch marks for all pregnant women, there are some things women may be able to do to reduce the appearance of or even prevent stretch marks in some cases:

  • Drink plenty of water, usually around 6 to 8 glasses day, to help skin stay healthy and elastic
  • Reduce the intake of caffeine, such as in coffee, tea, and soda, which can dehydrate your skin
  • Eat a healthy diet including vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other good sources of protein. Talk to your doctor about adjustments you need to make due to health concerns or food aversions
  • With your doctor, set reasonable pregnancy weight gain goals to avoid putting on a lot of excess weight during pregnancy. Though it's important to put on a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, putting on too much weight can increase stretch marks and cause other, more serious pregnancy complications.
  • You can try using creams or lotions designed to prevent stretch marks starting before your belly begins to grow, though you should talk to your doctor about certain substances to avoid during pregnancy, like vitamin A. Cocoa butter and vitamin E (alpha Tocopherol) lotions are popular creams for preventing stretch marks, though studies have shown mixed results about their success.

Women should talk to their doctors or nurse midwives about their concerns with preventing stretch marks and anything they are taking to prevent stretch marks. Pregnant women often find very different opinions from doctors and others about what works for preventing stretch marks and what doesn't. To some extent stretch marks are determined by factors beyond women's control, so even if women use common methods to prevent stretch marks, they may still get stretch marks during pregnancy.

After the baby is born there are some ways to make stretch marks less noticeable:

  • Wear clothing styles that cover the stretch marks. Even swim suit styles are available that cover the most common areas for stretch marks.
  • Use body make up designed to help cover stretch marks.
  • Avoid getting a tan from the sun or tanning beds on areas with stretch marks, because stretch marks may tan less than other parts of the skin. Instead try sunless tanning lotions, which may help blend stretch marks in.
  • Talk to a dermatologist about treatments like microdermabrasion or laser treatments, which may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. A plastic surgeon may also be able to recommend treatments for stretch marks. It may be best to wait on these treatments until you are done having children because they can be expensive.

Women should try not to be overly distressed about stretch marks, especially because they do become less noticeable over time, often appearing only slightly lighter than the surrounding skin. If women are having extreme feelings of insecurity due to stretch marks they may need to talk to a counselor or therapist who can help them feel more self confident, accepting of their bodies, and able to appreciate the pregnancy changes that are a common part of welcoming a new person into the world.


American Pregnancy Association, "Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks Different?" [online]

Cleveland Clinic Health Information, "Stretch Marks" [online]

March of Dimes Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center, "Skin Changes" [online]

Nemours, TeensHealth, "Stretch Marks" [online]

U.S. National Library of Medicine, abstracts, "Creams for preventing stretch marks in pregnancy" and "Prevention of striae gravidarum with cocoa butter cream" [online]

Related Article: Pregnancy Weight >>