Badges of Motherhood

How you can and can't treat stretch marks


Preventing stretch marks entirely is virtually impossible, but "many physicians still feel that proper hydration and keeping weight gain reasonable might help," says dermatologist Alan Rosenbach, M.D. Over-the-counter creams and lotions can help moisturize stretched skin and reduce itchiness.

When to Treat

Stretch marks usually fade to an almost unnoticeable white color in the months after delivery. Treatment is available from dermatologists and plastic surgeons, but don't wait to seek it. "It's best to treat stretch marks as soon as possible after delivery," Rosenbach says. Studies have found that tretinoin, best known as Retin-A, can improve their appearance, but because scientists aren't sure how tretinoin is absorbed, it should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Unfortunately, Retin-A is less effective on stretch marks that have lost their color, so by the time you wean your baby, it may be too late to use it.

Zap It

Laser treatment is safe during breastfeeding, but is best done before striae turn white. Laser is not always effective and can be expensive, so "if a woman has a large number of stretch marks, we'd attempt to treat one or two as a test procedure," Rosenbach advises. Usually the improvement is a matter of degree. The bottom line is that stretch marks will appear if you're genetically inclined to develop them. Your choices for dealing with them are varied, but can't be pursued until after the baby is born. So in the meantime, try to shelve the shame, keep your skin moisturized and enjoy your changing body.

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