Can you prevent stretch marks when pregnant?

Most doctors believe that stretch marks are hereditary and cannot be prevented with creams. See more pregnancy pictures.
Most doctors believe that stretch marks are hereditary and cannot be prevented with creams. See more pregnancy pictures.
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As if the morning sickness, aches and swollen ankles weren't enough to worry about during pregnancy, stretch marks also appear -- and not just on your belly. Stretch marks can appear on your chest, buttocks, arms and thighs so that you soon feel like those red, pink, purple or silver lines are practically everywhere [source: WebMD]. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way.

There are ways to reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks, though you may not be able to prevent them entirely. For example, if you have a genetic predisposition for stretch marks or you have light skin, the odds are stacked against you. In fact, up to 90 percent of women get stretch marks before they give birth [source: Tunzi].


The best way to minimize stretch marks is to pay close attention to your weight, diet and skin. Eat healthy food and avoid gaining weight quickly because this can stretch the skin. Doctors recommend most women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy [source: WebMD]. Gaining more than this can increase your chances of developing stretch marks. You should also drink lots of water and take supplements that contain vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc because this will help your skin stay supple and stretch easily. Some doctors also recommend gently massaging areas prone to stretch marks with cocoa butter or shea butter [source: Robertson]. There are also many lotions, oils and creams on the market that claim to prevent stretch marks, but most doctors believe that stretch marks are hereditary and topical treatments won't prevent them [source: WebMD].

Lastly, remember that you can also get stretch marks from losing weight too quickly -- so don't worry if you don't immediately shrink back to your pre-baby body [source: Robertson]. And even if stretch marks do appear, they usually fade over time. Dermabrasion, chemical peels or laser surgery can also be used to address unwanted stretch marks after childbirth [source: WebMD].

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Robertson, Annabelle. "Stretch Marks Getting Under Your Skin?" (accessed 9/3/09)
  • Tunzi, Marc and Gary Gray."Common Skin Conditions During Pregnancy." American Family Physician. January 15, 2007. (Accessed 8/11/09)
  • WebMD. "Pregnancy and Weight Gain." (accessed 9/3/09)
  • WebMD. "Pregnancy Skin Care: Get That Glow!" (accessed 9/3/09)
  • WebMD. "Your Skin and Stretch Marks." (accessed 9/2/09)