What causes stretch marks?
During pregnancy your hormones can soften the fibres of your skin, making it more prone to stretch marks. You may get stretch marks on your tummy as your baby grows and your skin stretches. You may also develop them on your thighs and breasts as they get bigger. When this happens will be different for everyone. The first sign may be some itching.
Stretch marks aren’t harmful and don’t cause any medical problems.
Can I prevent stretch marks?
You can’t always prevent stretch marks occurring, especially during pregnancy. Stretch marks affect about 8 out of 10 pregnant women.
You are more likely to get stretch marks if your weight gain is more than average in pregnancy. Every pregnant woman gains weight differently so there are no official guidelines for how much weight you should gain. The most important thing is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, which will help to keep your weight gain to a safe and healthy level for you and your baby. Most women put on between 10kg (22lb) and 12.5kg (28lb) during their pregnancy, although this varies from woman to woman.
Gaining the weight steadily during your pregnancy can help reduce the effect of stretch marks.
The appearance of stretch marks can be difficult for some women and affect their confidence. But even if you’re concerned about stretch marks, don't try to lose weight while you're pregnant. This is not healthy for you or your baby.
Find out more about weight management in pregnancy.
Treating stretch marks
There are a few treatment options available, although there isn’t much evidence that they work.
You could try:
- using makeup
- using creams, gels or lotions. There are a lot of these on the market and the manufacturers often claim they can remove stretchmarks. But it’s unlikely they can prevent stretch marks or make them fade away. They should be applied when your stretch marks are still red or purple. Massaging the skin may help.
- Laser therapy. This can’t completely remove stretch marks, but it may help them fade. Laser therapy can be expensive and isn’t available on the NHS.
Your stretch marks probably won’t go away completely after your baby is born. But they should gradually fade from a pink or purplish colour to white and become much less noticeable.