When to Expect Stretch Marks during Pregnancy

When to Expect Stretch Marks during Pregnancy?

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Up to 90 percent of most women get stretch marks during pregnancy. If you want to know when to expect stretch marks during pregnancy, plus prevention and remedies read on!

I did not get stretch marks until I was 7 months pregnant with my first one. And for all that duration, I was thinking I am the kind who doesn’t get stretch marks during pregnancy.

But one day I woke up and saw dark – red streaks of lines on my bump and I must admit, I was not happy seeing that!!

I started slathering my bump and rest of the body with the stretch mark cream.  

Also, it took a whole lot of patience and time to lighten it up at the level so no one can see it with bare eyes!!

Stretch marks are inevitable for almost 90% of pregnant women. Many things change once you have a baby and stretch marks are among one of those big physical changes that you have to accept.

But take solace in knowing that stretch marks do fade overtime with good skincare routine during pregnancy and postpartum.

If you are wondering when you will get stretch marks during pregnancy and what can you do to prevent it, this article is for you.

So, let’s get nitty-gritty details of the stretch marks during pregnancy.

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When to Expect Stretch Marks during Pregnancy

What are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks (also known as Striae gravidarum) during pregnancy happens because of a sudden increase in body weight that your skin can not keep up with. You are expected to gain 30-35 pounds throughout your pregnancy.

When to Expect Stretch Marks during Pregnancy

A sudden increase in weight during pregnancy causes stretching of collagen and elastic fiber under the layer of the skin resulting in stretch marks (1-2).

Stretch marks first appear as flat pink to red bands that become raised, long, wide, and violet-red during pregnancy. Over a period of months after pregnancy, the marks fade and become white or gray.

Pregnant women can expect to get stretch marks on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks, and thighs as these areas grow faster over those nine months.

Early Signs of Stretch Marks during Pregnancy

Early on, you will notice your skin thinned out and may notice slight pinkish discoloration around the abdominal area. Unless you are paying attention to changes in your skincare, you may miss those early signs of stretch marks.

Slowly your skin will darken, and you will start seeing those beautiful maternity souvenirs.

Not always, but itchy belly during pregnancy is another indicator that you might develop stretch marks. Stretching of the layer under the skin to accommodate your growing baby may make the skin itchy.  

How soon do Stretch Marks appear during Pregnancy?

You will start to notice stretch marks during the late second and early third trimester of pregnancy. However, a research study published in 2004 demonstrated that 43% of women develop stretch marks before 24 weeks of gestation (3).

The chances of you developing stretch marks are higher if you have a history of developing stretch marks in the family (4).

Also, hormonal changes during pregnancy and increased stretching of collagen and elastic fiber underneath the skin are responsible for developing stretch marks during pregnancy (5-6).

Does everyone get Stretch Marks during Pregnancy?

Stretch marks are a very common and annoying pregnancy souvenir that affects about 55% to 90% of women during pregnancy (7-8).

As mentioned earlier, your genetic makeup, among other factors, plays an important role in whether you will develop stretch marks during pregnancy or not.

So, if you are not one of those lucky ones to not develop stretch marks, worry not!! There are things that you can do in advance to at least minimize the occurrence of those beauty marks on your bump.

Disclosure:This post contains affiliate links. As an affiliate and amazon associate, I earn commission on qualified purchase at no extra cost to you.

How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?

According to research, preventive treatments for stretchmarks have met limited success. However, you can certainly keep certain things in check to minimize the development of stretch marks. Let’s see what you can do,

1. Moisturize, Moisturise and Moisturize

As soon as you find out you are pregnant, start moisturizing those areas where stretch marks are most likely to develop – abdomen, breasts, lower back, and hips.

There are many products available in the market that claims to be effective in preventing and/or reducing the appearance of stretch marks, but many of them do not work at all. So be careful in choosing one that would work for you.

It is also important to remember that there is no single treatment that works for all. (more on evidence-based best cream for stretch marks below)

2. Keep Your Weight in Check

Typically, a pregnant woman gains 35-35 pounds throughout pregnancy. Gaining healthy weight during pregnancy may help to keep stretch marks at a minimum, as it prevents your skin from overstretching.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water may help you keep your skin hydrated. Hydrated skin tends to develop fewer stretch marks then dry skin.

The AAP recommends a daily intake of between 8-12 glasses of water during pregnancy. Grab a water bottle that tracks your water intake, so you don’t have to worry about counting a glass of water each time you drink water.

4. Eat Nutrient-rich diet

Eating a nutrient-rich diet may help to keep your stretch mark at a minimum.  Make sure your diet contains Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, and proteins which may help in boosting your skin health.

Vitamin C is a very important nutrient in the development of collagen and collagen plays an important role in keeping your skin elastic and strong. So, eat plenty of citrus fruits such as lemon and oranges to get your daily dose of Vitamin C.

5. Treat the Stretch Marks when they Appear

Your best chance to reduce the appearance of stretch marks is treating them when they appear. Once your stretch marks mature, it is extremely hard to treat. For best results start applying stretch mark lotion or cream when they start to appear.

Don’t just apply product into your stretch marks, but gently massaging in your skin makes it more effective.

6. Avoid Hot Showers and Baths

When your skin is dry, elastic fibers underneath your skin start breaking down and increasing the chance of developing stretch marks.

So, avoid hot showers or turned down the temperature of your shower to avoid the chance of drying your skin.

Best Stretch Mark Prevention Cream during Pregnancy

Many research studies have tested creams and lotions sold to treat the stretch marks, but they did not find a single product that helps all the time.

Most popular home remedies that claim to prevent the stretch marks- olive oil, almond oil, or cocoa cutter has consistently failed to significantly lower the incidence of stretch marks when tested.

A randomized double-blinded study published in 2008 showed no difference in stretch marks development between pregnant women who applied cocoa butter lotion daily from 16 weeks to their delivery compared to those who did not (9).

A randomized clinical study published in 2011 showed no effect of daily application of olive oil without massage on the abdomen on appearance or prevention of stretch marks compared to the control group (10).

In another research study, bitter almond oil with massage and without massage was tested on 141 pregnant women. And they found that there wasn’t a significant difference in frequency of stretch marks between women who applied Bitter almond oil without massage vs control group. However, pregnant women who applied Bitter almond oil WITH massage saw less frequency of stretch marks compared to other groups (11).

An important conclusion from all these studies is that only applying almond oil or olive oil without massaging may not benefit in reducing the frequency and/or appearance of the stretch mark alone.

Now let’s look at Stretch marks creams that showed promising results in research.

1. Trofolastin cream

Stretch Mark Crème containing Centella asiatica extract is best supported by data for the prevention or reduction of the severity of stretch marks.

Centella asiatica is a medicinal herb and is thought to increase the production of collagen and elastin fibers.

A research study published in 1991 demonstrated that pregnant women who applied Trofolastin cream with Centella asiatica extract, α-tocopherol, and collagen–elastin hydrolysates daily from week 12 until delivery significantly reduced the incidence of stretch marks compared to the control group (12).

Another study published in 2013 found that stretch mark creams that contained Centella asiatica significantly reduced the intensity and/or severity of stretch marks among women who did develop the stretch marks compared to women in the control group (13).

Trofolastin cream manufactured by a pharmaceutical company and contains Centella asiatica extract (Gotu Kola), alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and collagen-elastin hydrolysates.

A daily application of Trofolastin cream can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks during pregnancy. Buy it from Amazon here.

2. Mederma Stretch Mark Therapy

Another clinically proven effective anti-stretch mark cream is Mederma Stretch therapy. Mederma Stretch Mark therapy gel contains Centella asiatica extract, hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronate, and Cepalin as the main ingredient. This product is also paraben-free so safe to use during pregnancy.

All these ingredients work together to keep skin more elastic and less prone to tear and form stretch marks.

The manufacture of this cream performed a survey of pregnant women who used Mederma Stretch Marks therapy for 12 weeks and found out that 76%  of women were satisfied with the appearance of their stretch marks after use of it.

This is a very cost-effective product and you only have to use once a day to the affected areas. Buy it from Amazon here.

3. COS Naturals Stretch Marks and Scars Cream

Stretch marks creams containing Hyaluronic acid is also supported by data for lowering the incidence of stretch marks in pregnant women.

Hyaluronic acid is thought to increase resistance to mechanical forces and stimulate fibroblast and collagen production (14).

Two separate research studies tested two proprietary stretch marks creams containing Hyaluronic acid as an active ingredient (and other vitamins and fatty acids) in pregnant women. They showed that when applied daily through massage during the second trimester, it significantly reduced the incidence of Stretch marks (15-16).

However, I couldn’t find the exact stretch mark cream with Hyaluronic acid that these studies used but COS Naturals Stretch Marks cream looks very promising.

COS Naturals Stretch Marks and Scars Cream contains Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, E, B as an active ingredient. These ingredients help provide deep hydration and moisturize skin for increased elasticity along with speedy wound healing properties of Hyaluronic acid to decrease the incidence of stretch marks during pregnancy. Buy it from Amazon here.

You may find these stretch marks creams a little pricey, but they are worth every single penny. From my own experience, I have used Palmer’s Cocoa butter to moisturize the whole body and Trofolastin cream for susceptible areas throughout pregnancy. And it did help to reduce the occurrence and appearance of stretch marks after using it throughout pregnancy and after giving birth.

Do Pregnancy Stretch marks go away?

Unfortunately, pregnancy stretch marks are maternity souvenirs that are here to stay even after the baby is born. But with right stretch marks cream, it should gradually fade from pink to white and become less visible.

Even after extensive research on stretch marks creams, the researcher did not come up with a single cream that works for all. But they did come to the conclusion that could really help reduce the frequency and appearance of stretch marks. Let’s look at their important conclusions

  • Your best chance of treating stretch marks is when they start to appear. So, look out for those early signs of stretch mark forming
  • Don’t just apply stretch marks cream. Massaging has a great effect on reducing the severity of stretch marks
  • Apply Stretch mark cream daily for weeks to months. Be patience, they take a time to work

Does an itchy belly during Pregnancy mean Stretch Marks?

Pregnancy stretch marks occur due to rapid weight gain during pregnancy causing stretching of the layer underneath the skin. Stretching of this layer along with hormonal changes during pregnancy causes itchiness around the abdomen.

Itchy skin does not necessarily mean you will develop stretch marks, as there are also other reasons for itchy belly during pregnancy.

But itchy belly during pregnancy is a good indicator that you should START your stretch mark prevention routine.

Does Breast milk help Stretch marks?

You might be surprised to know that breast milk could help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. While there is no scientific evidence of the effect of breast milk on stretch marks, but a new mom of a 2-month-old baby tried breast milk on one side of her belly with stretch marks for two weeks and have seen a significant difference in the appearance of stretch marks. Read the full story here.

Among the other surprising uses of breast milk, it is possible that breast milk could work on the stretch mark. Its effect on reducing the appearance of stretch marks may be attributed to anti-inflammatory bio-molecules present in human breast milk (17).

When to Expect Stretch Marks during Pregnancy: Conclusion

Ideally, you expect to see stretch marks during the late second and early third trimester during pregnancy. But as mentioned earlier there is a research study, that shows the occurrence of stretch marks during the first 12 weeks of gestation.

So, you can get stretch marks pretty much any time during pregnancy.

But don’t worry too much about it, mama. All you have to do is, keep your eyes on those early signs of stretch mark developing and starting your stretch marks prevention routine with good stretch mark cream with Centella asiatica extract and/or Hyluaronic acid. And remember to MASSAGE the product onto your stretch mark for best results.

Here you go mamas, you have research-based information on when to expect stretch marks during pregnancy. I hope it helps you with the right strategies and products to minimize the appearance of your stretch marks.

References

  1. Pinkus H., Keech M.K., Mehregan A.H. Histopathology of striae distensae, with special reference to striae and wound healing in the Marfan syndrome. J Invest Dermatol. 1966;46:283–292.
  2. Shuster S. The cause of striae distensae. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh) 1979;59:161–169.
  3. Chang A.L., Agredano Y.Z., Kimball A.B. Risk factors associated with striae gravidarum. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004;51:881–885.
  4. Di Lernia V., Bonci A., Cattania M., Bisighini G. Striae distensae (rubrae) in monozygotic twins. Pediatr Dermatol. 2001;18:261–262.
  5. Lurie S., Matas Z., Fux A., Golan A., Sadan O. Association of serum relaxin with striae gravidarum in pregnant women. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;283:219–222.
  6. Fitzpatrick T.B., Wolff K. McGraw-Hill Medical; New York: 2008. Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine.
  7. Picard D., Sellier S., Houivet E., Marpeau L., Fournet P., Thobois B. Incidence and risk factors for striae gravidarum. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015;73:699–700.
  8. Fitzpatrick T.B., Freedberg I.M. 6th ed. McGraw-Hill Professional; New York: 2003. Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in clinical medicine.
  9. Osman H., Usta I.M., Rubeiz N., Abu-Rustum R., Charara I., Nassar A.H. Cocoa butter lotion for prevention of striae gravidarum: A double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG. 2008;115:1138–1142.
  10. Taavoni S., Soltanipour F., Haghani H., Ansarian H., Kheirkhah M. Effects of olive oil on striae gravidarum in the second trimester of pregnancy. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011;17:167–169.
  11. Timur Taşhan S., Kafkasli A. The effect of bitter almond oil and massaging on striae gravidarum in primiparous women. J Clin Nurs. 2012;21:1570–1576.
  12. Mallol J., Belda M.A., Costa D., Noval A., Sola M. Prophylaxis of Striae gravidarum with a topical formulation. A double blind trial. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1991;13:51–57.
  13. García Hernández J.Á., Madera González D., Padilla Castillo M., Figueras F.T. Use of a specific anti-stretch mark cream for preventing or reducing the severity of striae gravidarum. Randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013;35:233–237.
  14. Korgavkar K., Wang F. Stretch marks during pregnancy: a review of topical prevention. Br J Dermatol. 2015;172:606–615.
  15. Wierrani F., Kozak W., Schramm W., Grünberger W. Attempt of preventive treatment of striae gravidarum using preventive massage ointment administration. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 1992;104:42–44.
  16. de Buman M., Walther M., de Weck R. Effectiveness of Alphastria cream in the prevention of pregnancy stretch marks (striae distensae). Results of a double-blind study. Gynakol Rundsch. 1987;27:79–84. 
  17. Arnardottir H, Orr SK, Dalli J, Related CN. Human milk proresolving mediators stimulate resolution of acute inflammation. Mucosal Immunol. 2016;9(3):757-766. doi:10.1038/mi.2015.99

Featured Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


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