Stretch marks are probably the most discussed and feared of the changes to the body during pregnancy. Your skin is usually fairly elastic, but when you gain weight really quickly (like during pregnancy), you may get fine lines on your body called stretch marks. Stretch marks occur when the tissue under your skin tears from rapid growth or stretching. When the skin is over-stretched, it produces too much collagen, which can form the "scars" called stretch marks.
These marks appear in 50 - 90% of all pregnant women, usually showing up in the later half of pregnancy as bright red lines, sometimes even purplish. While the majority will be on the lower abdomen they can also be found on the thighs, hips, buttocks, breasts and arms of women.
They tend to be pinkish in light skinned women, and in dark skinned women they will be lighter than the surrounding skin after pregnancy. While not painful, the stretching of the skin may cause a tingling or itchy sensation.
There are some factors that you should know contribute to stretch marks:
- A family history. If your mom or sister has them, it increases the likelihood for you.
- Your history. If you had them in a previous pregnancy, you may get them again, although usually just a darkened (temporarily) of the old ones and a light extension sometimes.
- Weight Gain. Rapid or excessive weight will make this worse.
- Ethnicity. African American women get them less.
- Nutritional Status. Well-hydrated and healthy skin stretches better.