Stretch Marks After Pregnancy -- 10 Things to Know
Badge of honor or unsightly marks? It all depends on your perspective! Here are 10 things to know about stretch marks -- what they are, why you get them, how to treat them and why you just might learn to love them.
You wouldn't trade that perfect, beautiful baby for anything in the world. But the stretch marks you feel you could live without. Instead of cursing your tiger stripes, read these 10 facts about stretch marks after pregnancy -- they might make you feel a whole lot better about them.
- What Are Stretch Marks?
"Stretch marks (also known as striae) are a form of depressed scarring in the dermis, the layer of skin just below the epidermis," says Dr. Laura Swanson, a dermatologist at The Polyclinic in Madison Center in Seattle. And it's not just pregnant women that they can happen to, she explains. Stretch marks can appear on men and women during puberty, times of rapid weight gain, with the use of specific medications, due to adrenal gland disease or with aggressive weight lifting. When they occur during pregnancy, the condition is called striae gravidarum.
- How Do You Get Them?
You have an increased risk of developing stretch marks after pregnancy if you gain more than the recommended amount of weight, have a large baby or are of a younger maternal age. There also seems to be a genetic predisposition, which can explain why you got them but your best friend didn't.
- How Common Are They?
"The vast majority of women will get stretch marks during pregnancy -- up to 90 percent of women, in fact," says Dr. Alison Ehrlich, a professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington University's Medical Faculty Associates. In other words, they're quite common and you're not alone.
- Can You Prevent Them?
Prevention of stretch marks is controversial. "While many topical products are marketed as being effective in preventing stretch marks, there is very little evidence to support their efficacy," says Dr. Swanson, adding that "minimizing rapid weight gain during pregnancy is likely to be more effective than topical therapy alone."
- How Do You Get Rid of Them?
There's no cure for stretch marks -- no magic treatment that will completely get rid of them, says Dr. Ehrlich. However, there are some treatments that have proven to be effective at removing stretch marks or lessening their appearance. "There are some topical treatments that may be effective at reducing the appearance of stretch marks after the fact, such as tretinoin (Retin-A-- which should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding because it can pass through the skin), topical silicone and some laser treatments," she says. "With time they typically fade from that reddish or purple appearance to a less noticeable light grayish color."
- Are There Natural Remedies Out There?
The Spoiled Mama Tummy Butter is an organic, vegan, toxin-free nourishing cream for postpartum stretch marks that may help fade recent stretch marks with consistent application and massage. Many moms love the rich texture and fresh lemony scent (even if it can't prevent the stripes).
- How About Clinical Results?
Mustela Stretch Marks Double Action is another favorite, with promising clinical results showing a decrease in color of existing stretch marks when used over a three-month period.
- What Should You Do If You Want a Fast At-Home Treatment?
With StriVectin SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate, some users reported a noticeable change within two to eight weeks. The product is a bit pricey, but could be worth a shot if you're looking for quick results.
- What Celebs Have Embraced Their Stripes?
Actress Alyssa Milano has a great perspective on why she happily embraces her stretch marks. "Our bodies are not made to look good in a string bikini," she tells People Magazine. "Our bodies are made to nurture and cuddle and all of those amazing things that come along with being a mom."
- If You Still Think You're the Only One...
Never forget: Stretch marks are like tiger stripes you've earned by joining an elite club. To see them as the beauty marks they really are, check out the awesome real women at The Love Your Lines Campaign.
Andrea Dashiell is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, ParentMap, Parents, DailyCandy and Red Tricycle.