Stretch marks are narrow pink to purple streak-like lines that can develop on the surface of the skin. They usually appear on your stomach or sometimes on your upper thighs or breasts as your pregnancy progresses. The first sign you notice might be itchiness around an area where the skin is becoming thin and pink.
Anyone can develop stretch marks, they don’t just affect pregnant women. They can happen whenever the skin is stretched, such as when we’re growing during puberty, or when we gain or lose weight.
You are more likely to develop stretch marks in the last 3 months of your pregnancy as the skin on your stomach stretches to make room for your growing baby.
It’s not always possible to prevent stretch marks, but you are more likely to get stretch marks if your weight gain is more than average during your pregnancy. Most women gain between 11kg and 16kg in pregnancy, although weight gain varies a great deal from woman to woman. If you are worried about your weight, talk to your midwife or doctor.
Stretch marks are not harmful. They don't cause medical problems, and there's usually no need to see your doctor because there isn't a specific treatment for them. Over time, your skin will shrink and most stretch marks will fade to white over time.
Some creams claim to remove stretch marks once they've appeared, but there is no reliable evidence that they work. There is also limited evidence on whether oils or creams help to prevent stretch marks from appearing in the first place.
Laser therapy can't completely remove stretch marks, but it may help fade them.
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Last reviewed: January 2020