Stretch marks are a common annoyance during pregnancy. Here’s a trimester-by-trimester guide to preventing them, plus tips for getting rid of stretch marks after giving birth if they do show up.
Stretch marks develop in nine out of ten pregnancies, usually in the sixth or seventh month. These pinkish streaks around stomachs, breasts, or hips happen when collagen and elastin (the fibers that keep your skin taut) stretch and snap during pregnancy due to the pressure of rapid weight gain. You have the best chance of reducing the appearance of stretch marks when they’re new. Once scars fade to white, they’re extremely difficult to treat. Click here
Whether you get them depends mostly on your pregnancy and your genetics, says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. If your mom or grandma developed stretch marks, you’re more likely to get them too. While there’s no surefire way to prevent stretch marks, these tips can keep them to a minimum during your pregnancy.
How to prevent stretch marks
While there is no way to guarantee that a person will not develop stretch marks, the following tips may help reduce the likelihood:
Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin stay supple. Many cold-water fish contain omega-3, including:
Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include:
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 8 ounces (oz) of seafood per weekTrusted Source. Pregnant women should talk with a doctor to confirm how much fish it is safe for them to eat. They should also avoid fish that is high in mercuryTrusted Source.
2. Get vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for healthy skin. A person can often get vitamin D from sun exposure.
However, too much sun exposure also raises the risk of skin aging and cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation state that eating fortified foods and taking supplements when necessary is a safe way to get vitamin D without exposing skin to the sun.
3. Gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend 25–35 pounds (lb) of total weight gain for pregnant women who are already at a healthy weight.
Women who are overweight before pregnancy should gain 15–25 lb, while underweight women should gain up to 40 lb.
Pregnant women should talk to their doctor about how much weight to gain during pregnancy because underlying health conditions can also affect the range.
4. Use a moisturizer
Moisturizing the skin regularly may help prevent stretch marks.
There are no creams or oils proven to prevent stretch marks. However, keeping the skin supple may be helpful for reducing the risk in some people.
Moisturizers can often help reduce itching that happens as the skin stretches. One review found that creams and oils may also help prevent stretch marks, but more recent research is necessary to confirm this.
5. Avoid anabolic steroid usage
Anabolic steroids weaken the skin’s structure, so people who use them, such as some athletes, may be more prone to stretch marks.
Anabolic steroids are not the same as corticosteroids, which are medications that people use to treat asthma, allergies, lupus, arthritis, and many other conditions.
6. Limit or avoid steroid creams for itching
Steroid creams or corticosteroids, which usually contain cortisone, may weaken the skin’s collagen and result in stretch marks. However, people concerned about this should speak to a doctor before discontinuing them.
People can try anti-itch creams that do not contain cortisone for minor bug bites and rashes. They can also ask a doctor about nonsteroidal creams for conditions such as eczema.
If a person must use creams containing cortisone, it is best to use them only for as long as necessary before switching to a milder cream.
7. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Researchers have not been able to prove that any specific vitamins prevent stretch marks, but evidence shows that skin needs a variety of nutrientsTrusted Source, including vitamins A, C, E, and zinc, to stay healthy. Fruits and vegetables are rich in these and other vitamins and minerals.
8. Get regular exercise
Exercising regularly can help a person lose weight and avoid weight gain in the future. Remaining at a healthy weight can reduce the risk of excessive skin stretching.
Exercise also increases blood flow to the skin, which can help the skin rebuild itself.
9. Wear sunscreen and avoid direct sun
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, which can make stretch marks more likely to form.
People should seek shade, wear UV-protective clothing, and apply sunscreen daily. It is essential to allow the sunscreen to absorb for 30 minutes before sun exposure and to reapply it at least every 2 hours while spending time in the sun.
10. Avoid smoking
Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, which deprives it of the oxygen it needs to repair itself. In addition, smoking depletes nutrients in the body that the skin needs to stay healthy.
Smoking also releases damaging free radicals, which can break down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.