The thin reddish or brownish (depending on your skin colour) lines of stretchmarks usually appear on the abdomen, breasts and thighs. They affect around 90 per cent of pregnant women and may appear as you put on more weight during pregnancy, causing the skin to stretch. Higher levels of hormones also disrupt your skin's protein balance, making it thinner than usual. After pregnancy, the reddish or brown pigmentation in the stretch marks gradually fades, and the streaks become lighter than the surrounding skin.

Some lucky women have more elastic skin than others, meaning they won't get stretchmarks, but for most of us they are simply a fact of pregnancy. You can't prevent them, but you can try to minimise them by rubbing oil or cream rich in vitamin E over your abdomen to keep it supple, eating a healthy diet and doing gentle exercise. It may take some time for them to fade after pregnancy.