Is there anything that can be done to prevent stretch marks?
I wish I could invent something that would be safe and effective for stretch marks. I would be very popular and very rich!
Stretch marks, which go by the medical name striae ("stree-ay") gravidarum, are caused by changes in the fibers of the skin, typically over the abdomen, breasts, butt, and thighs, leading to streaks of pink or dark coloration. Unfortunately, the greatest determinant of stretch marks is in your genes—women whose mothers and sisters had striae are more likely to get them. And of course you don't have control over that.
So what can you do?
Stretch marks are somewhat proportional to the amount of stretch, so one approach is to limit your weight gain to the lower end of the recommended range. Cocoa butter and other emollients can provide relief for the itchy stretchy feeling, but despite a widely held belief in their effectiveness, research hasn't shown any fewer stretch marks in moms-to-be who use these sorts of treatments.
One research study indicated that a cream containing Centella asiatica extract (also known as gotu kola or Indian pennywort), vitamin E, and collagen-elastin hydrolysates seemed to prevent stretch marks in women prone to them. I don't know a brand name for this, but you may start hearing about it if proof of effectiveness persists and it is demonstrated to be safe in pregnancy. Topical tretinoin cream may be effective in treating stretch marks, but research isn't conclusive, and tretinoin may not be safe in pregnancy, so it is definitely not recommended. Most other stretch mark treatments haven't been well studied, so it is hard to say what might work and be safe to use.
For the moment, we don't really have anything proven safe and effective at prevention or treatment of striae in pregnancy. Take some comfort in the fact that over time stretch marks become pale and silvery and less noticeable. And appreciate all your body is accomplishing by growing a new family member, even when some undesirable changes accompany this miracle!