It seems like there's just no end to the rivers of delight that are pregnancy symptoms. Some of them (hello, vomiting) make others pale in comparison, but one thing's for certain: there's no lack of colorful side effects to deal with when you're growing a human life inside you. And for many women, stretch marks are one of the hardest to embrace. What causes stretch marks during pregnancy? It turns out it's a bit of a scientific mystery.
If you've discovered new tiger stripes on your skin since pregnancy, you're actually in the majority of women, no matter what airbrushed celebrity photos in magazines lead you to believe. According to Sarah Winward, founder of Your Downton Doula in Toronto, between 50 to 90 percent of women find themselves with stretch marks during pregnancy. When asked about the root cause of stretch marks in an exclusive interview with Romper, Winward says that "at a microscopic level the connective tissue changes, becoming weaker and less elastic, but we don’t really know why."
Although no conclusive science exists on why the connective tissue changes, Winward says one thing is sure: as your belly grows, the weakened connective tissue breaks, which can permanently damage the collagen in the skin.
According to Winward, women who gain weight in rapid spurts during pregnancy may be more susceptible to stretch marks than women who gain weight more gradually, so being conscientious of maintaining a consistent rate might lessen your chances for damaged skin. That being said, genetics seem to play a factor in the likelihood of seeing this particular side effect manifest — women whose mothers had stretch marks in pregnancy are more likely to get them themselves.
Whether or not science will ever fully understand or offer real prevention of stretch marks, you can take heart in knowing that if you get them, they'll be a badge of honor — carrying and birthing a child is definitely earning your stripes.