The Truth About Pregnancy Stretch Marks

Many things change after you have a baby: schedules, sleep time, and sense of freedom, to name a few.

Along with a changing schedule, there are the many physical changes you’ll see. Chief among them is stretch marks. For many women, stretch marks are as much a part of having a baby as diapers and feedings.

“My belly was so itchy and tight when I was pregnant — and sure enough, I noticed the lines as my tummy grew,” says Maggie Shaw, a 38-year-old mom in San Francisco. “They got even worse after my second pregnancy.”

Anatomy of a Stretch Mark

Stretch marks happen when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks.

You gain about 30 pounds during the 9 months you are pregnant, says Heidi Waldorf, MD. She is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Growing that fast can leave you with stretch marks, especially on your belly and breasts, two areas that grow the most. Stretch marks can also show up on the thighs, buttocks, and upper arms. The marks often start out reddish or purple, but after pregnancy they gradually fade to white or gray.

Experts say that women who are at a healthy weight should gain 25-35 pounds. “It’s not a bad idea to not only try to stay within that range but to also gain slowly and steadily, as opposed to in fast spurts,” says Mary Lupo, MD. She is a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine.

In other words, when it comes to stretch marks, how quickly you gain may be as important as how much you gain.

Who Gets Stretch Marks

If you have them, you’re in good company. About 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

If your mother had stretch marks, then you’re more likely to have them too, since genetics plays a role.

If you have a lighter complexion, you will tend to develop pinkish stretch marks. Darker-skinned women tend to get stretch marks that are lighter than their skin tone.

Is Vitamin E Safe to Use for Stretch Marks While Pregnant?

Most women are aware that the things they take in to their bodies while pregnant can affect their unborn babies. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and taking over the counter medicines or prescriptions should obviously be avoided unless approved by your OB/GYN.

However, did you know that simple exposure can also affect your baby? Products and chemicals applied to the skin or inhaled can be just as damaging as those you consume. Because of this, it’s critically important to fully investigate the beauty products you use while pregnant.

Generally popular for pregnant women because of their increased risk are stretch mark prevention products. A common product for preventing stretch marks is Vitamin E oil. Below, we discuss one study’s findings on the potential dangers of Vitamin E intake during pregnancy. Keep in mind that this is intended to be informational only; you should always check with your doctor when making a determination on whether or not a product is safe for use during pregnancy.

Potential Dangers of Vitamin E Use During Pregnancy

A study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in February of 2009 found that high consumption of Vitamin E during pregnancy resulted in an increased risk of infant congenital heart disease.

The study was conducted by surveying 757 mothers: 351 were mothers of children suffering from congenital heart disease, and 406 were mothers of healthy children. Each mother completed a food frequency questionnaire, answering questions about their food intake for the previous 4 weeks. The mothers were also asked if their diet had changed since they’d given birth, and mothers who said their diet was different after pregnancy than during pregnancy were removed from the study.

What remained were 600 valid study participants: 276 who were mothers of children suffering from congenital heart disease, and 324 who were mothers of healthy children. The researchers then evaluated the surveys in order to determine potential factors leading to congenital heart disease in infants.

What they found was that the mothers of children with congenital heart disease had a significantly higher daily intake of Vitamin E than the mothers of healthy children. The study concluded that higher-than-recommended levels of Vitamin E consumption could lead to congenital heart disease in infants, with the highest risk periods being just before conception and during early pregnancy.


While this study covered intake of Vitamin E and not application of it, the findings are worth considering when determining the safety of Vitamin E oil use during pregnancy because of the ability for exposure to have an impact on fetus development. While it may be possible that Vitamin E applied to the skin isn’t absorbed into the body in the same way that it is when ingesting it, it’s still worth careful consideration when choosing a stretch mark prevention product.

If you have concerns about the safety of Vitamin E and other ingredients in beauty products during your pregnancy, make sure to consult with your doctor.