Pregnancy and stretch marks

Dre Emilie Bourgeault

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Stretch marks can cause real cosmetic concerns and pregnancy is especially conducive to their development. Prepared in collaboration with Marie Fortier, a nurse who specializes in pre- and post-natal care, this article explains what pregnancy stretch marks are and provides some dermatological advice.

What exactly are stretch marks?

More than 63% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks. These marks result from a tear in the collagen fibres in the skin which have been subjected to intense stretching. Long narrow stripes, reddish at first, will appear, making the skin look overstretched. After a while, these streaks or lines will fade and turn white.

Stretch marks can develop on the abdomen, breast and thighs around the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.

Many factors seem to be involved in the development of stretch marks: hormonal changes, genetic predisposition (limiting prevention and treatment) as well as physical stretching of the skin.

Studies show that the following factors increase the risk of stretch marks:

  • Family history of stretch marks

  • Young age at time of pregnancy

  • Higher weight pre-pregnancy and pre-delivery

  • Baby’s high birth weight

Stretch marks on abdomen

What to do during pregnancy?

  • Keep working out and exercising unless told otherwise by your doctor.

  • Aim at gaining the optimal weight as determined by your doctor.

  • Massaging daily from the second trimester with a cream containing the ingredient “Centella asiatica” (Trofolastin cream) could have a positive effect – though minimal – according to some studies.

  • Moisturizing the skin definitely won’t hurt but there is NO scientific evidence it helps prevent stretch marks.

  • Keep in mind there is unfortunately no magic bullet for preventing stretch marks. This warning also goes for creams advertised as “anti stretch mark”.

What to do after giving birth?

  • A vascular laser treatment can be used to reduce the marks’ redness. But with time, the stretch mark will fade even without treatment.

  • The daily application of retinoid-based creams for a 3 to 7 month-period will contribute to a 20% improvement according to some studies.

  • The treatment options are unfortunately very limited. Laser treatments supervised by professionals have shown a 50-75% improvement in some studies, but the cost remains high.

For any questions related to your personal situation, you can ask advice from our certified dermatologists at dermago.ca.

This article is adapted from a post written in collaboration with Marie Fortier (French only).

Dermago

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