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Stretch Marks: The Road Map of Pregnancy

By Monica Bielanko |

The saving grace of a very long, miserable, first pregnancy was the fact that nary a stretch mark was to be found on my body.  Not a one.  I figured it was God’s trade-off for a brutal case of morning sickness that only let up around month seven and then karate chopped its way back into my life at the end of month eight like Jean-Claude Van Damme on crack.

And so it’s been with this pregnancy: no stretch marks.  I secretly gloated to myself that my stomach skin was as smooth as when I was twenty-five.

Perhaps that was my downfall.  Gloating.

God must’ve sensed my pride and hurled bolts of lightning my way in the form of three gnarly, purple welts zigzagging down my stomach.

To:  Monica

Love:  God

I’ve heard mamas call stretch marks their war wounds.  They’re triggered when skin is stretched to the utmost, which occurs when growth is so rapid that your skin’s elastic fibers break.  They scar our bellies, boobs, behinds and thighs.

Because I haven’t fallen victim before, I hadn’t paid attention to lotions and oils touting their stretch mark prevention qualities.  I didn’t use a thing during the first pregnancy save for the occasional, hasty belly rubbing of my usual lotion – the cheapest stuff I can find at Walmart.  But now… I’m looking into the matter a bit more.  Olive oil, cocoa butter, certain vitamins, fancy-schmancy creams hawked on late-night infomercials…

Can stretch marks really be prevented?

I hate to tell you this, but The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says no.  Like I said, stretch marks are mostly due to rapid weight gain.  Research has also shown that genetics and race (skin color) play a role in stretch marks.  “There’s not much you can do about these other than monitor your weigh gain,” says Dr. Laura Riley, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of “You and Your Baby” (2006).  In a 2008 interview Riley told the New York Times, “Various creams and lotions are sold to prevent stretch marks from developing or getting worse, but the jury is out on whether they work.”

Many people, some of my closest friends among them, swear that vitamin E creams, expensive oils, salves and emollients help, but a lot of women who religiously used those products still got those marks. I’m thinking the women who used the creams and didn’t get the marks wouldn’t have got them anyway.

So all that cocoa butter you’ve been rubbing on your belly may be for naught.  Well, your skin is probably softer than your fetus’ bottom, but likely, it ain’t preventing stretch marks.  The key seems to be diminishing the stretch marks after they’ve occurred.  You can do laser treatments, microdermabrasion or Retin-A, especially early on when the lines are red and purple. Studies have found that certain topical creams can lighten stretch marks as well as reduce their size.

And hey, keep on with the cocoa butter if it makes you feel better.  It certainly can’t hurt.  It’ll definitely keep your poor, stretched skin from itching so much.   Take heart, if you can’t afford fancy treatments, you have something for free that makes all stretch marks look better:  time.  Stretch marks will flatten, fade and lighten over time.

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About Monica Bielanko

monica-bielanko

Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “Stretch Marks: The Road Map of Pregnancy

  1. christine says:

    My dermatologist just told me that the one thing that really does seem to work on existing stretch marks is Olay Regenerist. I’m getting the start of my first one, front and center, next to my navel, whee.

  2. Kate says:

    You gals are lucky. I had a couple stretch marks due to putting on weight quickly after recovering from a years-long battle with anorexia/bulimia. I thought, hey, no biggie. At least I’m a healthy weight. Well, once your body has started with the stretch marks, I swear they come on easier. I’m 37 1/2 weeks pregnant and the entire front of my belly is COVERED in stretch marks. I’ve never seen a woman with stretch marks as bad as mine. My doctor actually apologized on behalf of my little guy, because she’d never seen stretch marks so horrible. So don’t fret over a couple angry little red lines. You could always have a road map of LA on your belly like me. :(

  3. Megg says:

    With any cream you have to check it doesn’t have vitamin A in it (listed as retinol as well as other names) as that’s meant to be potentially dangerous to developing foetuses.

    There’s a great site called shapeofamother (I think), where women have posted photos of themselves during and after pregnancy showing all kinds of “normal” – we can hide a lot from the outside world and it was very reassuring to see how some women were shaped through bearing children.

  4. laura says:

    Thank you for your honest description of your pregnancy. It helps me feel less alone or clueless as to what to expect. I mean, obviously I know stretch marks can happen. But I wonder things like, if it didn’t happen the first time, are you safe in subsequent pregnancies? if you’ve made it so far (eg, 30wks, 35wks??) in the pregnancy are you safe? Also, stuff like peeing in your pants when you throw up. Even though I’ve managed to keep those activities separate, it gives me a heads up about what could happen or that things could, in fact, be worse.

  5. Katy says:

    Noooooooo! Say it ain’t so! I was lucky with my first and didn’t get a single stretch mark the entire pregnancy. I did get a small one on my breast after my milk came in. Whoa! I also read that if you’re going to get stretch marks, typically they happen with the first pregnancy and then you’re in the clear. This article obviously disproves that. I’m 20 weeks now and I guess the only thing I can do to prevent them is not gain weight too fast.

  6. Dana says:

    Not gain weight too fast my rear end. Granted this is my third pregnancy but I’ve been gaining next to no weight and I’m covered in stretch marks.

  7. Heather says:

    I second you Dana…I gained a total of 12 pounds my first pregnancy, no matter how hard I tried to gain more; I get the whole pregnancy pukes like Monika…..and yet have the WORST stretch marks on my hips that I have ever seen. My stomach has just a few soft ones, but my hips…. and they didn’t even show up until 2 days before the kid was born…got worse in the next couple of weeks, and the skin is so thin there, that they are still tender 7 years later……. so it wasn’t weight gain. BUT I have heard that there are studies that show younger moms are more likely to get them than older moms, and that you are more likely to get them if your own mother did (mine didn’t get a single one :o (
    I eat a healthy diet, so I just assume that it was bad skin elasticity from my Dad’s side and all the extra hormones of being a very young first time mom ? I never got any more in my subsequent pregnancies.

  8. TinaNYC says:

    I am very pleased with my results thus far using the Made from Earth Aloe and Jojoba Cream Therapy. I have been using this daily for 1 month and have seen an improvement in the depth and color of my stretch marks. My stretch marks were a result of rapid growth and weight gain; therefore, did not expect such a noticeable improvement, since most creams are seemingly made for pregnancy/women. I would highly recommend this for everyone and anyone. Have not had as much success with other products.

  9. Nancy says:

    It’s so hard to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy but we can now handle all of this things with the help of those treatments, and also with the guides from our doctors. My doctor recommended I try Belly Oil and I am so grateful that i did, every woman should know about it!

    Nancy

  10. Nancy says:

    Stretch marks is part a of our pregnancy and I was very concerned about getting stretch marks when I was pregnant with my first child. I ask my doctor how to prevent this and he gives me only a Belly Oil and I am so grateful that i did, every woman should know about it!

  11. DanniMin says:

    I have a 5 month old daughter and I was lazy in applying anything to my stomach. Well i got dark stretch marks on my belly, my tighs and breasts. My stomach looked like a dried up prune, sounds bad right? On top of that the stretch marks were itchy and I have to say I did scratch them a couple of times. During the pregnancy I barely used lotion, now I wish I had.

    After I had my daughter and recovered from the pregnancy I wanted to get rid of my stretch marks. I was recommended the Dr Max Powers Stretch Mark cream. It doesn’t stain my clothes, and it leaves my skin feeling soft. I ate better, exercised when I could, and I have applied the lotion on 2 times a day to those areas. I’m glad I purchased it because the stretch marks are less visible.

    Throughout the month, I kept asking my mom to see my belly. She was very glad to see my stretch marks are going away. My stretch marks are now lighter, smoother and less visible. I am happy to say the ones on my tighs are practically gone and my stomach looks less like a dried up prune! I am glad with the results so far and I’m looking forward to another month of using this lotion!

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