Stretch marks are caused by your body size growing faster than your skin can keep up with. This rapid growth causes elastic fibers in your skin to break, leaving scar tissue, medically referred to as striae gravidarum. 
Although stretch marks can fade and become less noticeable over time, they do not disappear after pregnancy; since they are scar tissue, you’ll be stuck with them for life.  They can start out red or purplish, but after pregnancy will likely fade to a light pink or grayish color.
Pregnancy is a very common time for women to experience stretch marks, since average pregnancy weight gain ranges from 25-50 lbs, depending on your size, and happens within a short amount of time (all in the span of about 9 months or less).
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For women who are able to maintain a normal and steady pregnancy weight gain, this will help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. But since an estimated 72% – 90% of women do get them somewhere on their body , whether it’s breasts, thighs, or abdomen, you’ll want to know the best possible ways to guard against them naturally.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women gain between 11-40 lbs during gestation, depending on their pre-pregnancy BMI , so be sure you provide enough nourishment to yourself and the baby to see an appropriate amount of weight gain. Too little weight gain could be a sign of malnourishment and too much can be associated with a greater BMI for your baby, stretch marks for you, and other adverse effects . One of the keys to avoiding stretch marks has to do with how quickly you put that weight on and how elastic your skin is to begin with.
Allowing yourself to gain the weight gradually over the course of 9 months, rather than all in the first trimester, is your best defense against stretch marks. Using some of these skin nourishing oil and balm recipes will ensure that your skin has time to catch up and stays as elastic as possible as you grow, but nothing can replace a good balanced diet.
Continuously moisturize your skin throughout pregnancy, starting as early as possible in your first trimester.
Since there is no conclusive or strong enough clinical evidence that any topical treatments are truly effective at reducing or preventing stretch marks , you should use these oils with realistic expectations and, most of all, focus on that slow steady weight gain .
Although there aren’t any existing miracle topical treatments for stretch marks, these oils are enjoyable to use and will help moisturize your skin, making your pregnancy more comfortable. Also, the daily routine of massaging your belly feels really good and acts as a great stress reliever.
I recommend you make this a daily habit, every night before bed.
Keep in mind these can be used not only on your belly but on your breasts, butt and thighs as well. Rub them all over your entire body!
If you are concerned about oil staining your clothes or sheets, then try using these right after bathing or showering, allow them to soak into your skin, and then towel off before you get dressed.
Natural Belly Oils
Each of these are 100% natural and made with organic oils that are safe for you and baby.
I love coconut oil for so many uses! It’s a staple in our household. We use it for mostly for cooking, but it also works for hydrating skin. Not to mention it smells absolutely delicious! Make sure to shop for an organic, unrefined coconut oil. A little goes a long way when using it as a moisturizer, so use a pea-sized amount to cover your entire belly, then another pea-sized amount for your breasts and thighs. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but once you warm it up with your hands, it becomes a liquid that’s easily absorbed by your skin.
Lavender Scented Olive Oil
This is another staple oil in our kitchen. Great for dressing salads, cooking, and also awesome as a belly moisturizer! I like to scent olive oil with some lavender essential oil drops to cover up the olive scent. Lavender is such a calming, relaxing fragrance, making this perfect for use at night before bed. I use about 7 drops of lavender essential oils per 1 ounce of olive oil. The best part is that olive oil is affordable and you likely already have some in your kitchen cupboard. Store your mixture in a glass or plastic container and keep it in the bathroom or bedroom for application once per day. You’ll only need about 4-5 drops to cover your entire belly and more.
Are you craving chocolate? I recommend we keep our chocolate and candy intake to a minimum during pregnancy. Not only does chocolate contain caffeine, but it’s generally very high in sugar too! As an alternative to eating chocolate, you can get some cocoa butter and rub it all over your body to indulge in the rich, sweet chocolatey scent. Cocoa butter is the pure fat extracted from the chocolate plant, so it contains 0 mg of caffeine. I had never used cocoa butter as a moisturizer before pregnancy, but now I’m hooked! I also love it for especially dry skin patches of skin like elbows, knees and feet. It’s less greasy than oils, and did I mention it smells fantastic? You also only need a pea-sized amount of this to cover your entire belly. Like coconut oil, it starts out solid but melts upon contact with the warmth of your skin.
Choose your favorite oil or balm or use all three in rotation. I like to enjoy all of these and mix it up so my skin gets lots of different nourishment.
The best part about using natural oils is that they are multipurpose, affordable, and chemical-free! You don’t have to worry about synthetic ingredients leaching through your skin and into your baby’s home.
I’ve even heard coconut oil works wonders as a diaper rash balm for the baby. More about that in a future article.
Have a safe and happy pregnancy and above all, when it comes to preventing stretch marks, don’t forget to stay hydrated, well nourished, and active!
(Read This Next: 4 Ways to Exercise During Pregnancy for Mom & Baby)