What Is Striae Gravidarum?

Mary McMahon

Striae gravidarum are marks that form during and after pregnancy, known colloquially as “stretch marks.” The severity and location of markings can vary, depending on the patient and a number of factors. Studies into the topic suggest that topical creams and other applications do not appear to have an impact on whether marks form and how quickly they fade. Once the marks appear, they will always be present, although they may become less visible with time.

Staying hydrated during pregnancy is important to preventing striae gravidarum.
Staying hydrated during pregnancy is important to preventing striae gravidarum.

The precise mechanics behind the formation of striae gravidarum are not well understood, although researchers suggest they may have something to do with hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy that could undermine collagen bonds. As the fetus grows and the woman puts on weight, lines of atrophied skin can start to appear. They may be dark purple or red at first, and fade to pale white or silver with time. The striae gravidarum can also acquire a slightly shiny appearance, and they may spread across the abdomen and thighs.

A large baby can contribute to the formation of striae gravidarum.
A large baby can contribute to the formation of striae gravidarum.

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Women with a family history of severe stretch marks are more likely to experience them in pregnancy, as are women who put on significant amounts of weight. Advanced gestational age at delivery, and a large baby, can also contribute to the formation of striae gravidarum. Younger women also tend to experience more intense markings. With subsequent pregnancies, the network of lines can become broader.

Exercising during the post-partum period can encourage the body to recover from striae gravidarum and other pregnancy-related changes.
Exercising during the post-partum period can encourage the body to recover from striae gravidarum and other pregnancy-related changes.

Prevention of striae gravidarum can include controlling weight during pregnancy, eating well and staying hydrated to keep the skin elastic, and considering supplements that can benefit skin health, like vitamin E. While research does not necessarily support the use of topical applications, gentle massage can promote circulation and may reduce the formation of marks. Experimental medications in development could supplement collagen or prevent skin atrophy in other ways.

Some research suggests that striae gravidarum may be linked to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy.
Some research suggests that striae gravidarum may be linked to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy.

Skin sagging, stretching, and other changes during pregnancy are not uncommon. Keeping the skin elastic can help, as can engaging in appropriate exercise to stay fit, and continuing exercise through the post-partum period to encourage the body to recover from the pregnancy-associated changes smoothly. For patients who experience distress because of striae gravidarum or other skin changes, cosmetic surgery may potentially be an option, depending on the location and nature of the change. Surgical consults to discuss options are often free or low in cost to allow patients to thoroughly explore all their options before making a decision about which treatment, if any, they want to pursue.

Gentle massage during pregnancy can promote circulation, and may help to prevent striae gravidarum.
Gentle massage during pregnancy can promote circulation, and may help to prevent striae gravidarum.
Many pregnant women use cocoa butter to prevent stretch marks.
Many pregnant women use cocoa butter to prevent stretch marks.
Creams that contain vitamin E may be helpful in treating stretch marks.
Creams that contain vitamin E may be helpful in treating stretch marks.

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Discussion Comments

wavy58

I have never been pregnant, but I did develop stretch marks as a teenager while going through puberty. As my curves grew, I got purple streaks across the area.

I noticed stretch marks on my butt as it started to enlarge. I was not getting fat by any means, but I was growing into a more womanly shape rather quickly.

I had heard of stretch marks before, and I took their appearance as a good sign. I had been a skinny girl with a flat rear, and I was glad it was growing!

Unlike the striae gravidarum caused by pregnancy, these marks faded away completely. Their disappearance was gradual, but after awhile, I could find no trace of them.

LisaLou

If I hear of a stretch mark removal cream advertising it will completely eliminate your stretch marks, I have a hard time believing it will really work.

I have stretch marks on my breasts and stomach from my pregnancies, and everything I have ever read says they are almost impossible to completely get rid of.

Even though I am hesitant that a cream will really work, I have still tried a few of them hoping that I will see an improvement.

I know some women have had laser treatment for stretch marks, and I think this gives much better results than using a cream.

honeybees

With each of my pregnancies, I gained a little bit more weight, and ended up with more stretch marks. I have tried several different stretch mark creams hoping that some of the stretch mark lines will diminish.

I am not expecting them to completely go away, but would like them to be less noticeable. I didn't see much difference in most of the creams I tried, but found one that seemed to work a little better than the others.

I bought some Revitol cream that is supposed to help prevent and treat stretch marks you already have. It has aloe vera and vitamins A and E. With regular, consistent use some of my stretch marks did fade.

I still have more than I would like (one is too many for me), but I do feel more confident than I did before using this cream.

John57

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was in good physical shape and worked out on a regular basis. My doctor told me it was OK to continue my exercise routine while I was pregnant, so I faithfully did for as long as possible.

I really didn't want to put on much weight or get a lot of stretch marks, because I knew how hard they could be to get rid of. I figured the easiest thing would be to prevent them instead of figuring out how to get rid of stretch marks later.

I gained 28 pounds over the whole pregnancy, and had 12 pounds to lose when I left the hospital. I do have a few stretch marks on my stomach, but they are pretty light and not too noticeable.

I think being in shape when I got pregnant, staying fit throughout my pregnancy and using lotion every day helped me from getting a lot of stretch marks.

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