Pregnancy is a time of change - suddenly, everything you've ever known about your complexion is different. From stretch marks to acne, your skin reflects the big transformation that's occurring in your body. While not every woman will experience all of these skin changes during pregnancy, here are a few things you might notice.
Around half of all pregnant women get stretch marks, so if you have them, you're in good company. Also known as striae gravidarum, stretch marks are scars that appear when the elastic fibers in the skin are damaged. Your susceptibility to stretch marks is largely controlled by genetics, so if your mother or sister have them, there's a good chance you will develop them too.
Stretch marks start out as pink, purple or reddish-brown streaks, depending on your skin tone. In most cases, stretch marks fade away gradually after birth to become a less noticeable silvery color. Older stretch marks can also be depressed or atrophic, meaning that they dent into the surrounding skin.
Women who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy or are carrying multiples are more likely to get stretch marks but even if you're having a small baby, you could still get them if they run in your family.
You've probably seen lots of advertisements for various creams and lotions that are supposed to help prevent stretch marks from forming, but there is no hard proof that these actually work. If you still want to try to prevent stretch marks, consider using a cream that contains Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) or centella asiatica extract, as some women have found these helpful.
If you are disturbed by the way your stretch marks look after you've given birth, you may want to consult with a dermatologist to discuss your options for treatment. A few studies have shown that applying 0.1 percent tretinoin cream (also known as Retin-A) helps minimize the length and width of stretch marks. Tretinoin cream is most effective if you begin to use it immediately postpartum, while the marks are still dark. Avoid using it if you are breastfeeding, however, as it can be excreted in your milk. Tretinoin is not safe to use during pregnancy.
Laser therapy also shows potential as a way to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Laser treatments may reduce the color of dark stretch marks and stimulate the production of collagen to help restore the skin's elasticity.
If you prefer to use over the counter treatments instead, some women do notice a difference with 20% glycolic acid, topical vitamin C or products formulated to help smooth out and reduce scar tissue.