While stretch marks can affect up to 90% of pregnant women, they are not inevitable. It is believed that there are many influencing factors including genetic history, ethnicity, skin tone, diet, the size of your baby, skin condition and how quickly you gain weight during your pregnancy.
Stretch marks will appear because of a rupture of collagen in the middle layer of your skin (the dermis) that is visible on the skin's surface. This rupture is caused when the fibres that make up the dermis are stretched as your bump grows and eventually they will stretch too far and break. This effect is increased during pregnancy, due to the pregnancy hormonal changes that soften the collagen ligaments of the pelvis. This allows the tissue to stretch easily during childbirth which has an effect on the skin's collagen as well.
Stretch marks can range a great deal in size varying from a few millimetres to over 8cm in length. While you're most likely to find them on your bump, they can also appear on your breasts, bottom or thighs.
One way of helping to reduce the incidence and appearance of stretch marks, is to ensure you have a good diet that will help your skin keep healthy too. So make sure that you include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and essential fatty acids found in omega-3 in your diet. Eating foods which are high in vitamins C and E, zinc and silica have been found to help your skin stretch better. Avoiding alcohol and by drinking plenty of water will also help.
So if the key to reducing the appearance of stretch marks is to maintain the skin's elasticity, will putting on a moisturiser or lotion help? Pregnancy is a huge challenge for your skin, but the majority of creams are created to combat dry skin, which is not the same thing as a 30 inch stretch over 40 weeks. It is important to choose a cream or oil that has been created for that purpose and uses only pregnancy-safe ingredients.
While there is no certainty that the use of a specialised pregnancy stretch mark cream will mean “no stretch marks for you", the action of massaging your belly can help to improve your skin's circulation and can also help in bonding with your unborn baby - both hugely beneficial actions.
Unfortunately, just because you may have escaped having stretch marks during your first pregnancy, it doesn't guarantee you immunity from them in a subsequent pregnancy. Between your pregnancies your skin condition may have changed in the interim and lost some of its elasticity.
It is likely that your genetic makeup is the most important single factor in determining whether or not you will avoid having stretch marks in pregnancy. But a sensible diet, with plenty of water and the use of a specialised pregnancy stretch mark cream or oil can go a long way towards helping to reduce the incidence and appearance of any stretch marks that do appear over this time.
Andrew Smith is a Director of MumsTheWord, a leading supplier of Natural and Organic pregnancy and baby products for mums to be including stretch mark creams and morning sickness remedies .