Your Genes Play A Big Part
How can I avoid stretch marks? And if I do get any, how can I get rid of them after delivery? - Pamela, Rhode Island
The expert answers
I haven't met a woman ever who didn't fear, or at least mention, "stretch marks" during her pregnancy-including me. The unfortunate statistic is that roughly 90 percent of all women will develop them to some degree at some point during her pregnancy.
By definition, these are reddish, purplish or pink depressed linear streaking which can occur across the breasts, hips and/or abdomen. "Striae gravidarum" is the official medical term for stretch marks. They are caused by the stretching and rupture of the elastic fibers in these areas secondary to the large and/or rapid increase in weight during pregnancy. Typically, if they do develop, they will fade to white after delivery.
In order to avoid stretch marks completely, you need to have good elastic skintone -- this occurs in one of two ways: through wonderful genetics or through years of hard work at nutrition and exercise. It is also possible to minimize the tendency toward stretch marks through a slow, steady weight gain, rather than large jumps in weight. This is through discipline and a constant awareness of your changing body. Unfortunately, despite what the ads say, no amount of vitamin E or any "magic" cream will help to reduce stretch marks. This is because these creams and potions stay topical on your skin and the damaged area is the elastic fibers under the superficial layers of the skin. You also questioned the ability of being able to get rid of them after delivery should you form them during pregnancy. Apparently there are some good results with laser surgery, however, no surgery is without consequences or side effects, so please be very cautious in making a surgical decision and make certain the physician is a board-certified plastic surgeon.
However, on its own, as your skin regains its pre-pregnancy tone you'd be surprised at the great amount that these marks reduce in appearance (both color and texture). This can take up to one year and requires good nutrition and a "stick to it" exercise regime. In the end, if stretch marks do occur, try to keep your chin up and look at them as another one of those telltale signs of pregnancy and motherhood.