Stretch marks are due to tearing of the deeper (dermis) layer of the skin. Usually, stretch marks appear as angry red lines
While common in pregnancy, not every pregnant woman gets them. As well they can occur at other times when not pregnant such as with rapid growth (e.g. puberty) or rapid weight changes.
Are these stretch marks?
Stretch marks vary in location on the body, severity and when they occur.
Their onset can be at any stage of pregnancy though they are more common as the pregnancy advances. Some women first notice stretch marks right at the very end of the pregnancy or even immediately after childbirth. This can be very upsetting as they had thought as they had not occurred in pregnancy they had escaped them.
They are most likely to occur in your first ongoing pregnancy, often not getting worse in subsequent pregnancies.
They are often worse with overstretching of the skin such as occurs with twins and with very large babies.
They are usually on the belly, but also occur on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back and buttocks.
Stretch marks often run in families. If your mother had stretch marks, it is likely that you will also get them. They are more common in Caucasian fair-skinned women. They are less common in women from ethnic backgrounds with darker skin. More melanin in your skin means you are generally less prone to developing stretch marks.
What can be done?
To my knowledge, they can’t be prevented.
There are many creams and lotions on the market that claim they can be used to prevent or minimise stretch marks. It is a multimillion-dollar industry based on clever, deceitful marketing and which is short on real scientific evidence or efficacy. To my knowledge, there is no reputable, definitive scientific evidence that these cream and lotions make any difference! Sorry! If someone has reputable scientific information to the contrary please advise me. Patients often ask and I comment: “There is no proof they work. But if you want to ‘donate’ your hard-earned money to a pharmaceutical company go for it!”
If they are uncomfortable or itchy then topical moisturises, etc. can help relieve the symptoms, but will not have any impact on the occurrence or severity of stretch marks.
After pregnancy over time stretch marks will fade but they won’t disappear.
Stretch marks in pregnancy are also referred to as ‘striae gravidarum’. I tell my patient to look on them in a positive way as ‘war wounds’ or ‘scars of a victorious battle’ and their usual comment is “it is worth it!”.