Stretchmarks can come as a nasty shock in pregnancy as after sudden weight gain they can seem to appear out of nowhere. They may also appear if you experience rapid weight loss after the birth.

At first sight they look red and angry and you’ll probably be wondering if you’ll even dare bare your tummy again in a bikini.

But the good news is that stretchmarks do eventually fade to a pale silvery colour so they won’t always be nearly so noticeable, but this can take many months sometimes years and they won’t disappear completely.

You’re not alone with this issue though, between 50 and 90 per cent of pregnant women are estimated to develop some degree of stretchmarks – usually in the sixth and seventh month of pregnancy.

pregnancy stretch marks

What are stretchmarks?

The medical name for stretchmarks is striae gravidarum. The narrow streaks most commonly appear on your stomach, thighs and breasts, but also the lower back and buttocks and  other areas of the body. At first they are red or purple and they gradually fade to a silvery colour over time.

What causes stretchmarks?

Stretch marks in pregnancy are caused by rapid stretching of the skin due to weight gain and hormonal changes which affect the skin.  It’s complicated but the simple explanation is that hormonal changes affect the formation of collagen – the scaffolding blocks of the skin which is necessary to keep growing skin taut. With less collagen content the skin is stretched and this leads to tearing.

To some extent the development of stretch marks can be due to the elasticity of your collagen is also down to your genes, among other factors.

Can you prevent stretchmarks?

There is lots of conflicting research, but what we can tell you is that there are some identified risk factors for the development of stretchmarks including:

Family history (did your Mum or sisters get stretchmarks?), race, skin type, birth weight, BMI, age, weight gain, and poor nutrition; however, most of these have not been substantiated.

Unfortunately, some women just get them, and some don’t. Life can be unfair sometimes!

Can you improve the appearance of stretchmarks with creams?

You can speak with your GP or a dermatologist about stretchmark treatment option, but a quick visit to the pharmacy or grocery store will show you a variety of products that claim they work on stretch marks.

Some products contain ingredients such as Centella asiatica, pro-vitamin B5, glycerine as well as pure olive oil and skin lipids. Whether they work on your stretch marks or not, your skin may feel softer and smell nice too.

Centella asiatica is an extract from a tropical plant and is known to stimulate collagen and fibre production resulting in strengthening of the skin. This addresses the main cause of stretch marks: a weakness in the skin, which cannot produce enough collagen and fibres such as elastin to maintain its firm but supple structure. The other key ingredients pro-vitamin B5 and glycerine are proven to nourish and moisturise the skin to make it soft, supple and elastic, as well as pure olive oil and skin lipids to support the natural skin barrier which protects your skin against external influences.

Other treatments

Other treatments to consider once you have given birth include:

  • Applying a dermaroller: Applying a dermaroller: This is a mechanical treatment best performed in a sterile environment such as a dermatology clinic. It involves using a dermaroller device to produce thousands of micro-medical needle columns in the skin.
  • Fractional laser treatments: This is another option which you could do some research into, as many beauty salons offer this procedure these days.

Mum's story:

I moisturised the skin on my bump, thighs and breasts all through pregnancy and afterwards and although I did get some stretchmarks I’m convinced that moisturising them helped with their appearance – they seemed to fade quite quickly after I’ve given birth so I don’t think it was a wasted effort.

Mum, to baby six months.