“Tiger stripes.” “Battle scars.” “Striae.” Whatever you call them — and whether you talk about them with pride or annoyance — stretch marks can be an unavoidable effect of pregnancy for some women. The bad news is there isn’t a way to entirely avoid getting them or a magic remedy that will remove them completely once you have them. But the good news is that there are a variety of treatments available to at least minimize their appearance.
WHAT THEY ARE
These “badges of honor” happen when the skin stretches as far as it can and then starts to tear through the body’s collagen and elastin fibers. They can appear on the skin as pink, red, purple or brown lines depending on your skin tone, and can be a frustration to women already experiencing the other glamorous aspects of third-trimester pregnancy, like weight gain, gas, insomnia and incontinence. And they are equal opportunity offenders – in 2017, supermodel Chrissy Teigen posted a photo that featured her thigh and its visible stretch marks, captioned “whatevs.” That post was retweeted 19,000 times and got almost 150,000 likes, with numerous women commenting their support and empathy to Teigen.
WHAT CAUSES THEM
Stretch marks can develop in a few different areas of the body, from the stomach to the hips, breasts or thighs. And while there isn’t one definitive cause, there are some risk factors that can clue you in that you may develop them in pregnancy. These include previously getting them (such as during puberty), genetics, being young during pregnancy, or just plain old luck-of-the-draw. And because any rapid weight gain can cause them, they can be especially common for women in late-term pregnancy.
HOW TO TREAT THEM
According to the Mayo Clinic, “stretch marks usually fade and become less noticeable over time and don’t require any specific self- care or home therapy.” But if they truly bother you, there are some treatments available that may help minimize their appearance, and some women even opt to have their stretch marks surgically removed during a “tummy tuck,” or abdominoplasty. For remedies to try at home, creams that contain glycolic acid or lactic acid can aid in the production of collagen, which may help skin retain its elasticity and suppleness. Burt’s Bees makes a very popular Mama Bee Belly Butter lotion that has mostly positive reviews, and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for Stretch Marks is a long-running favorite of many mamas-to-be. The Mayo Clinic also reports that Retinoid creams, light or laser therapies, and microdermabrasion can help fade the marks – but not ever remove them entirely.
As with any change that happens to your body as a result of pregnancy, the feelings associated can be complicated. But the bottom line is that whether you love them or hate them, stretch marks are a visible, lasting reminder of the amazing things your body is capable of in bringing new life into the world, and everyone can agree that is a beautiful thing.
*Always consult with your doctor before using any products or receiving any treatments while pregnant.