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Stretch Marks

Feb23

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bounce_back_belly.png
Photo by G u i d o

During my first pregnancy, I erupted in stretch marks right at week 38. And seriously, erupt is the only word I can use to accurately describe it. One night I went to bed, smooth and moisturized and mark-free. The next morning, I had a series of white half-circles surrounding my belly button. They somewhat resembled the Milky Way. Every day, the circles and rings stretched further out across my belly, in a hurricane-like pattern.

My doctor noticed them at my next appointment and cheerfully told me to moisturize with cocoa butter. I told him that I HAD and DID and ALL THAT, and probably would have decked him if he hadn’t represented my best shot at not being pregnant for too many more weeks at that time.

By the time I gave birth to my (GIGANTIC) baby, the marks were pretty expansive. And as my belly deflated, the skin sort-of…puckered up and dimpled, like the scruff of a hairless cat. And I discovered that the worst of the marks had been on the underside of my belly and the tops of my thighs — instead of the thin white ones I’d been seeing and stressing over, I had deep wide purple ones in places that I’d simply been unable to see at nine thousand months pregnant.
And you know, I was pretty freaking upset about them. My c-section scar was nothing, the extra weight was more nothing, but OH. Those marks. I hated them. I couldn’t see myself ever getting used to them, or be okay with them, as every other mother I knew professed to be. I hadn’t expected to get them, frankly, because I never noticed that my mom had any and I never got any during puberty like many of my girlfriends did. So frankly, I was horrified. I was ruined!

I broke my own personal dollar-amount threshold at Sephora and bought a $100 tube of StriVectin…only to discover that you couldn’t use it while breastfeeding. I waited a few months and started slathering it on after we were more or less done with nursing. I tried oils and other creams and scar treatments and pretty much everything that made any kind of dubious stretch-mark-reducing claim.

And…they faded. They didn’t go away, of course — the indentation was still there, but at least the color of the marks more or less became the same as the surrounding skin. Points for having a natural fish-belly-white complexion? Eh?

And…I got pregnant again. This time there was no waiting until 38 weeks. The marks showed up earlier, darker, bigger. When one of my more fortunate friends advised one of our OTHER newly pregnant friends on which stretch-mark prevention cream “really worked” I kind of flipped out on her because NO.

NOT REALLY. YOU JUST GOT LUCKY.

But after my (NON-GIGANTIC) second baby was born, I found that I just couldn’t be bothered with all the stretch-mark care this time. I didn’t buy any StriVectin or cocoa butter or scar treatment. I used my regular ol’ body lotion on them, whenever I remembered.

And guess what? They faded. Again. The same. Probably a little faster. While the skin around my belly button will probably never be completely smooth again, I look fine. When standing up, my skin could possibly pass for pretty darn okay. (Sitting down, I’m a bit lumpy, since I just seem to have extra skin, marked-up and otherwise.)

So, in other words, if you’re looking at your own set of deep dark battle scars, relax. THEY WILL FADE. Like any patch of scar tissue, they need time, and will look better with age. Keep them moisturized and protected from the sun, but that’s about it. If it makes you feel better to apply the fancy custom products in hopes of speeding up the process, go for it, but don’t expect any miracles. The miracle of pregnancy and childbirth is what got you into this mess anyway, right?

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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13 Responses to “Stretch Marks”

  1. Anon Feb 23 at 12:06 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you! A very well-meaning friend gave me some oil that she swore was the reason she got no stretch marks in her first pregnancy. I used it, but not religiously and, around 26 weeks or so, I saw my first stretch marks. Now, at 39 weeks, the stretch marks are intense. I hate them, but I try not to worry about it. My mom says she thinks hers went away. I take solice in knowing that she isn’t really sure – she had some? but now she doesn’t really. So, maybe at some point, even if they don’t go away, I will not care enough that I won’t remember what happened to mine, either.
    The message that you can prevent them really bugs me, because you can’t. If you are going to get them, you will get them. I think the stuff that tells you they are preventable or curable just adds to the feeling that they are horrible and wrong, that your body is ruined. I can’t say I love my stretch marks, but it would be nice to hear more that they are a natural part of life and that I should love them rather than a horrible thing that I should hide and try to fix.

  2. Olivia Feb 23 at 1:26 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for calling out the b.s. that is stretch mark prevention/correction. They are scars and there is no way to prevent them if a person is genetically prone to them.
    I actually found my pregnancy stretch marks quite fascinating. I got marks when I went thru puberty on my boobs and hips, and later got more marks on my hips from weight gain. I totally expected to get more during pregnancy, and I was not wrong. Those suckers started showing up by week 20.
    They continued to grow and radiate from my navel, and by the end I had deep purple markes that almost looked like gashes. They were up to 6 inches long and I was just amazed at how fast they grew and changed everday.
    My baby is almost 11 months old now and they have already faded quite a bit (I’m caucasion FWIW). It will be interesting to see what happens the next time I’m pregnant.
    P.S. Why no picture of a lovely stretch marked belly for this post?

  3. Stefanie Feb 23 at 2:19 pm Reply Reply

    I thought I had been spared the stretch marks until around week 38 too, only instead of on my stomach, I got them on my butt! They started on one hip and spread around my lower back/butt area like a wicked sexy stretch mark belt. Then after I had the baby I found more purple lines on the underside of my belly, and also began to notice the linea negra, which I had never noticed while pregnant. Three months postpartum, I’m still waiting for it all to fade, but I’m glad the worst of it is on my backside. Even I can’t see them most of the time!

  4. Sheila Feb 23 at 2:26 pm Reply Reply

    Yes! Puckered-up and dimply is exactly what my skin looks like on the underside of my belly. It was an unpleasant surprise, and so far at 7-months postpartum it’s still there. The c-section scar isn’t too bad, but the weird skin really disturbs me, it’s just so bizarre looking and feeling. It is getting better, so I hope that it continues to do so, but if not, at least I’ve got a great reason for it.

  5. HereWeGoAJen Feb 23 at 3:21 pm Reply Reply

    I got no stomach stretch marks, even being pregnant for almost 42 weeks. But I did get LOADS of them on my butt. Yes, thank you. I was at my regular doctor at, eh, like 37 weeks pregnant, for my normal yearly check-up having nothing to do with babies, and I joked to her that my behind looked like it had been attacked by a wolverine. She said something like “it couldn’t be that bad, let me see.” What the heck, she’d already seen everything else, so I showed her. Her only response was something like “wow, um, yeah.”

  6. eva Feb 23 at 4:23 pm Reply Reply

    No stretch marks for me from #1 but we’ll see what happens with #2 (on the way). I wantd to comment that I had such intensely dark linea negra – all the way up to and well above my belly button, and a HUGE dark splotch all the way around. It faded! Took months, but it really is mostly gone now that Megan is two. Just waiting for week 24ish for the magic to start again. Yuck. I really hated the linea negra and cursed my dark olive complexion regularly while pregnant.

  7. Kate Feb 23 at 6:41 pm Reply Reply

    @Olivia, I could have written your post except that mine started a little later, got even longer than six inches, and my son is almost 10 months instead of 11.

  8. kari Weber Feb 23 at 8:08 pm Reply Reply

    I was certain that I had not gotten any stretch marks with my first (gigantic) baby, but late in the pregnancy I went in search of a CHEAP maternity swim suit with my mom (July baby- needed the cooling sensation of pool…). I was getting undressed in the dressing room, and as you can’t help but look at yourself since there is nowhere to hide from the GIGANTIC mirror… I noticed them for the first time. On the UNDERSIDE of my boobs! I was taking my tank top off, and my boobs lifted… and LO what the HECK is that?! I shrieked at my mother, “What are these?!” Now, they are pale silvery marks… no worse from my second (EVEN MORE GIGANTIC) baby. I didn’t get any on my stomach… but I did get the linea negra. Unfortunately, instead of my line being a nice centered line down my belly, it went down and then took this weird detour WAY AROUND my belly button… even though my line wasn’t dark, it took about 4 months or so to go away… Basically as long as it took for my skin to recycle itself. Stretch marks are what they are… why stress about them.

  9. chatty cricket Feb 23 at 9:47 pm Reply Reply

    The THINGS WE DO to make all of these small people who grow up to be four year old people who refuse to eat their chicken nuggets.
    When I was pregnant? I got stretch marks? ON MY BOOBS. come ON.
    Now in my fourth pregnancy, I find myself too preoccupied with other things (read: three children here on the outside refusing to eat their chicken nuggets) to even notice them anymore and so I figure they have just become part of my allure.
    I know, right? RAWR.

  10. lindswing Feb 24 at 3:01 am Reply Reply

    My delivery nurse and midwife congratulated me on not getting stretch marks during my FORTY-TWO week pregnancy as they patted and squished my freshly-emptied belly. Two or three days later, I failed to get into the shower without seeing my reflection, and was horrified to see huge, purpley stripes up my lower stomach. As if the post-partum belly (and hormones and sleep deprivation and…) isn’t terrifying enough! I don’t even know how that happens; stretch marks from deflating skin? Alas.

  11. Susan Feb 24 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    I didn’t get any on my belly for my first pregnancy and was so happy until my milk came in and my boobs about trippled in size in one day and now I still have stretch marks on my boobs two years later. I am now pregnant with my 2nd and have not noticed any stretch marks yet but I am waiting for that really dark line going up my belly, it took forever to go away last time.

  12. Caitlyn Feb 24 at 3:53 pm Reply Reply

    I got stretch marks. I also burned my stomach pretty badly (I was an IDIOT and tried to fry fish topless. don’t do that.) and those scars bother me far more, even though they’re smaller. Maybe because the stretch marks are battle scars and the burns are idiot scars.

  13. Mary Ann Feb 05 at 7:50 pm Reply Reply

    I lost a lot of weight really fast and was left with stretch marks around my armpits and stomach. I used almost the whole bottle of Made from Earth’s Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy before my girlfriend commented on how they were fading. I didn’t really notice because I see it every day, so the change was gradual. Definite give the Made from Earth Aloe a try, because it worked wonders for me!

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