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Stretch marks. Some cringe at the thought, while others wear them as a badge of womanhood. However you view them, stretch marks are an unavoidable part of pregnancy for many women. These lines, caused by skin stretching too quickly, can show up on the breasts, upper arms, buttocks, thighs and across the entire abdomen. Stretch marks range from tiny and nearly invisible to deep red during pregnancy and turn silver afterward.
Some skin types are more prone to developing stretch marks than others. While there's no proven way to prevent stretch marks, reducing sun exposure and keeping your skin soft and moist are always good ideas. Preventing excessive weight gain may also reduce your chances of developing stretch marks. But this may not be possible for women who are carrying multiples or have excessive amniotic fluid.
Cocoa butter is often recommended to reduce or prevent stretch marks, but all it can really do is soften your skin. As long as you're not allergic to cocoa butter, go ahead and use it. Just don't expect it to work.
Another option, which was shown in one study to prevent stretch marks for women who had suffered stretch marks in previous pregnancies, is a cream containing Centella asiatica extract, alpha tocopherol and collagen-elastin hydrolysates (Trofolastin cream). Only one study has published positive results associated with the use of this cream, but it may be worth a try if you're not a first-time mom and you developed stretch marks during one of your previous pregnancies. The cream is only available in Spain, but information can be found at: http://www.floridata.com/ref/C/cent_asi.cfm
A better bet may be to treat stretch marks after you have your baby. Dermatologists have recommended two options for the treatment of stretch marks in the postpartum period. A University of Michigan Medical Center study showed that applying 0.1 percent tretinoin (retinoic acid or Retin-A) cream diminished the length and width of stretch marks. This treatment works best during the first few days after delivery, but its effects on breastfeeding are not known. Don't try this as a preventive measure, as Retin-A should never be used during pregnancy.
Postpartum laser treatment may also work. With this treatment, flashes or beams of laser light are passed through the skin into the collagen of the second layer. The treatments are simple and quick and are performed in the office, usually without any anesthesia.