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NHS Choices - Preventing stretch marks

Stretch marks are very common and cannot be prevented altogether. However, the following advice may help reduce your risk of developing stretch marks.

Healthy weight

Gaining weight over a short period is one of the most common causes of stretch marks.

Putting on a lot of weight and diets that cause your weight to change rapidly can cause stretch marks to form because your skin is literally stretched by the sudden growth. Therefore, avoiding rapid weight gain and weight loss can help prevent stretch marks from forming.

If you need to lose weight, do it slowly by eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting plenty of regular exercise. Do not lose more than 0.5 kg (1lb) a week.

To find out whether you are overweight or obese, use the Body mass index (BMI) calculator.

Skincare

Massaging your skin every day with moisturiser or a massage glove can help improve your circulation and encourage new tissue growth.

It is also important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins E and C and the minerals zinc and silicon. These vitamins and minerals will help keep your skin healthy.

See the Health A-Z topic about Diet for more information and advice.

During pregnancy

If you are pregnant, it is normal and healthy to put on a significant amount of weight in a short space of time. However, it is a myth that you need to 'eat for two'.

You are more likely to get stretch marks during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes that affect your skin. However, you may be able to minimise their effect by gaining pregnancy weight steadily.

While you are pregnant, you need to consume approximately 2,500 calories a day. However, this is only 500 calories more than a woman's normal recommended calorie intake.

It is important that these calories come from a well-balanced diet that is rich in wholewheat carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, as well as fruit and vegetables.

During pregnancy, your weight gain should be slow and gradual. The amount of weight you put on will depend on the weight you were before you became pregnant. It is normal to gain 1-2kg (2.2-4.4lb) over the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
 
As a rough guide, during pregnancy:

  • Women who are underweight (have a BMI of less than 18.5) should gain 12.7-18.1kg (28-40lb).
  • Women who are a normal weight (have a BMI of 18.5-24.9) should gain 11.3-15.9kg (25-35lb).
  • Women who are overweight (have a BMI of more than 25) should gain 6.8-11.3kg (15-25lb).
  • Women who are obese (have a BMI of more than 30) should gain 5-9.1kg (11-20lb).

Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you are worried that you are not gaining weight at a healthy rate or if you are concerned about your stretch marks.

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Related Information

Introduction - Find everything you need to know about Stretch Marks including causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, with links to other useful resources.... more

Symptoms of stretch marks - Stretch marks first appear as red streaks or lines on the surface of your skin that are slightly raised to the touch. Depending on the colour of your skin they... more

Causes of stretch marks - Stretch marks appear when your skin is stretched suddenly. They occur in the strong middle layer of your skin (the dermis), which supports your skin's outer... more

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Preventing stretch marks - Stretch marks are very common and they cannot be prevented altogether. However, the following advice may help you to reduce your risk of developing stretch... more

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