When Do Stretch Marks Appear During Pregnancy?

Stretch marks often develop at the tail end of pregnancy, but can appear much sooner on some women. Learn how changes in your skin can lead to stretch marks.


I got lucky during my first pregnancy. After nine long months I could count the number of stretch marks I developed on one hand. After my second child, I wasn’t so fortunate. Just a few months into pregnancy number two, my breasts, hips, stomach, thighs, and even my calves were covered in red and purple streaks.

Pregnancy stretch marks, also known as striae gravidarum, affect between 50 and 90 percent of women, according to the University of Michigan. However, not all of these ladies develop stretch marks in the same places or to the same degree.

If you’re currently pregnant or thinking about conceiving, you may be wondering when the dreaded stretch marks will appear. Don’t worry: you probably have time to prepare. Most stretch marks don’t develop until the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, according to Debra Jaliman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.

In the meantime, slather on a stretch mark cream or lotion to keep your skin soft, supple, and resilient to stretching.

How to Minimize Stretch Marks

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and many consider their stretch marks their battle scars of motherhood. While I enjoyed every moment of my pregnancy, I didn’t enjoy the unsightly streaks that were left behind.

While there are literally hundreds of stretch mark products on the market, these few topped the list.

1. Mama Bee Belly Butter, Burt’s Bees

Rich in shea butter, this creamy belly butter is exclusively designed to moisturize and nourish pregnant bellies. The formula is natural and fragrance-free, perfect for mommas with sensitive skin.

You also won’t find any parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, or SLS, making it a safe choice for all nine months of pregnancy.

2. Organic Belly Balm, The Honest Company

You probably already know The Honest Company because of their selection of high-quality diapers and wipes. But have you tried their stretch mark cream? This smooth belly balm is USDA certified, hypoallergenic, and contains organic ingredients.

It has a blend of omega oils, coconut oil, and cocoa butter for moms with stretch-mark prone skin.

3. Cocoa Butter Body Butter, The Body Shop

Cocoa butter is known as one of the best ingredients for fading stretch marks. With its buttery texture and nourishing ingredients, this body butter instantly soothes dry skin, leaving behind a tropical coconut scent.

Use it though your pregnancy and long after to keep your skin feeling soft and healthy.

Why Stretch Marks Appear (and What You Can Do About It)

Stretch marks are caused by the continual stretching and tugging of the skin during pregnancy. Anyone can get stretch marks, no matter how your age, skin color, or ethnicity.

Stretch marks can also develop on nearly any part of the body, including the upper arms, lower back, tummy, hips, thighs, and breasts. They may start as a red or purple shade and in time, fade to a silvery white.

Some women may get more stretch marks then others, or their stretch marks may be deeper and more visible. Risk factors for stretch marks during pregnancy include women with a family history of stretch marks (if your mom had them, you’ll probably get them too).

Women with lighter complexions are more likely to develop visible stretch marks, as stretch marks are far less visible on darker complexions.

Some women gain more weight than others during pregnancy, especially women with strong cravings for sweet or fried foods. Gaining a lot of weight in a short period of time can cause tears in the skin that will appear as visible stretch marks.

While you can’t always avoid stretch marks, you can help to reduce their appearance with a few simple tips:

  • Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer to your skin to help maintain its elasticity.
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to promote healthy skin cell growth.
  • Exercise: Engage in mild workouts to keep your skin firm as it stretches.
  • Nutrition: Eat a nutrient-rich diet containing plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Stretch marks tend to appear in the third trimester, but can develop anytime depending on a variety of factors. You may also develop stretch marks shortly after birth when your breasts rapidly swell in size as your milk comes in.

Remember that while your stretch marks may not be pretty to look at, they’re part of being a mother.



Brandy Dishaw

Brandy is a content specialist and proud mother of two children. She enjoys writing engaging content on parenting, children’s health, and educational topics, and has been published on websites like Modern Mom, Yahoo! Shine, and Livestrong.com. With more than a decade of experience as a writer and mom, she combines research and personal experience to provide her audience with insight to the world of parenting.

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