Coping with Stretch Marks from Your Pregnancy

By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

Stretch marks are an almost inevitable part of pregnancy, though some women do manage to avoid them. Your skin stretches to accommodate the enlarging uterus and weight gain, causing the stretch marks. Some women probably also have some genetic predisposition for stretch marks.

The marks typically appear as pinkish-red streaks along the abdomen and breasts, but they fade to silvery gray or white several months after delivery. Their exact color depends on your skin tone — they appear browner on dark-skinned women, for example.

No cream or ointment is completely effective in preventing stretch marks, although products continue to enter the market. Many people think that rubbing vitamin E oil on the belly helps prevent stretch marks or helps them fade faster, but the effectiveness of vitamin E has never been proven scientifically.

Your best bet is to avoid excessive weight gain and to exercise regularly to maintain muscle tone, which eases the pressure of the uterus on the overlying skin.

Recently, some dermatologists have started offering a special laser procedure that may be helpful in reducing stretch marks after delivery. Also, some people advise using a cream containing retinoic acid to treat stretch marks after delivery.

However, don’t use these creams during pregnancy; also, you shouldn’t use some of them when you’re breast-feeding. If your stretch marks are particularly noticeable, consult a dermatologist a few months after your pregnancy is over.