How to Minimize Stretch Marks After Pregnancy

Stretch marks accompany at least 50 percent of pregnancies. See more pregnancy pictures.

There are women who glow when they're with child. Their skin is clear, their hair is lustrous and they generally become more beautiful with each passing trimester.

And then there's the other 90 percent of the female population.

Magical as pregnancy may be, few women would extol its cosmetic virtues. Weight gain, bloating, varicose veins and skin discoloration are typically considered some of the condition's downsides. In the aftermath, many women experience hair loss, sagging skin, rashes and, perhaps the most dreaded of pregnancy's cosmetic bummers, stretch marks.

Stretch marks accompany at least 50 percent of pregnancies [source: BabyCenter]. They often appear on the belly in the third trimester or in the initial weeks after delivery, but they might also crop up on the hips, buttocks and breasts -- anywhere with heavy concentrations of fat cells.

Technically called striae gravidarum, they result from excessive stretching of the skin. As the stomach gets bigger and bigger to accommodate a growing baby, the skin has to get bigger, too. The skin is fairly elastic, but during pregnancy (as well as adolescence and any period of major weight gain) it can be called on to stretch too much and too quickly. The result is tearing in the dermis, the middle of the three layers of skin. Tissue structures in the dermis are pulled apart, breaking collagen bundles embedded there. The result is a pink, red or purple, striating scar.

The term "scar" implies permanence -- so what's with all the stretch-mark products out there? Is there anything to be done about the lines that run across abdomens all over the world?

In this article, we'll look at some of the possible treatments for stretch marks, both preventive and therapeutic. We'll find out who is most likely to get stretch marks, what can be done about them and which treatments really don't do much.

While most women do get stretch marks, many don't. It's tough to know which group you'll fall into until the time comes. There are, however, some risk factors.