Your pregnancy and baby guideStretch marks in pregnancy

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Pregnancy stretch marks

Stretch marks are narrow pink or purplish streak-like lines that can develop on the surface of the skin.

If you get them, they usually appear on your tummy, or sometimes on your upper thighs and breasts, as your pregnancy progresses and your bump starts to grow. When this happens will be different from woman to woman.

The first sign you notice might be itchiness around an area where the skin is becoming thin and pink.

Stretch marks aren't harmful. They don't cause medical problems and there isn't a specific treatment for them.

After your baby is born, the marks should gradually fade into white-coloured scars and become less noticeable. They probably won't go away completely.

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks are very common in the general population and don't just affect pregnant women.

They can happen whenever the skin is stretched, for example when we're growing during puberty or when putting on or losing weight. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect your skin and make you more likely to get stretch marks.

They happen when the middle layer of skin (dermis) becomes stretched and broken in places. 

Whether or not you get stretch marks depends on your skin type, as some people's skin is more elastic.

Pregnancy weight gain

You are more likely to get stretch marks if your weight gain is more than average in pregnancy. Most women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22 and 28lb) in pregnancy, although weight gain varies a great deal from woman to woman.

How much weight you gain depends on your weight before you were pregnant.

It's important that you don't diet to lose weight when you're pregnant, but you should eat a healthy, balanced diet.

If you are worried about your weight, talk to your midwife or GP. They may give you advice if you weigh more than 100kg (about 15.5 stone) or less than 50kg (about eight stone).

Preventing stretch marks

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 about whether oils or creams help prevent stretch marks from appearing in the first place.

A review of two studies looking at two specific creams marketed as preventing stretch marks found that massaging the skin may help to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy.

However, more research is needed into whether creams or massaging the skin can help to prevent stretch marks.

Read more about stretch marks, including possible treatments for them.

Read more about other common health problems in pregnancy.

Page last reviewed: 20/04/2016
Next review due: 20/04/2019