Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy?
A: Unfortunately, not really. Whether or not you'll get stretch marks (or how bad they'll be) is mostly hereditary -- so if your mom or grandma had them, chances are you will too. More than half of all pregnant women develop these pinkish streaks around their stomachs, breasts, or hips.
Stretch marks occur when collagen and elastin (the fibers that keep your skin taut) stretch and snap as your skin expands during pregnancy. Gaining a healthy amount of pregnancy weight (25 to 35 pounds for normal-weight women) may help keep stretch marks to a minimum, since this prevents your skin from overstretching. But because this stretching happens in the underlying layers of your skin, the topical lotions and creams that promise to erase stretch marks don't really make a difference.
The one thing you can do is conceal them with self-tanner, since stretch marks are much more visible on pale skin. And keeping your skin well-moisturized with cocoa butter or other lotions can help with the itching that tends to accompany stretch marks.
After delivery, stretch marks usually fade to a light, silvery hue, and may be hardly noticeable over time. But if you're still unhappy with the way they look, a dermatologist might be able to help. Prescription Retin-A or Renova creams, as well as certain laser treatments, have been found to minimize the appearance of some stretch marks. These are most effective when the marks are new, so if you're interested, talk to a dermatologist after your baby arrives.