Being pregnant for the first-time can be a spiritually enlarging experience, but after you've climbed down from the exhilaration of delivering your firstborn and seeing him or her for the first time, you've got to battle with the more practical concerns of your postpartum condition. Maternal mood disorders aside, your most pressing concern would be stretch marks, those ugly squiggles in your belly, thighs and buttocks that appear during your pregnancy or right after it.

Despite widespread claims that stretch marks can be cured by topical applications, there is very little evidence that they go away for good even after religious application of lotions and creams. There are, however, things you can do before, during and after your pregnancy to minimize their chances of showing up. And while you may not actively seek to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons, the only real 'cure' to stretch marks that have already carved their path in your midsection is surgery, a procedure similar to tummy tuck.

Since a tummy tuck-like procedure is classified as cosmetic operation and therefore not typically covered by insurance, surgery may be out of your options. The easiest, cheapest, least intrusive and painless way to deal with stretch marks then is by using surface applications.

While stretch marks could never be permanently erased, since almost 90% of pregnant women get them due to a combination of genetics, diet, skin care, weight gained during pregnancy and the speed with which their pregnancies grow, their appearance however can be reduced or concealed using topical ointments and emollients. Their occurrence can also be minimized by a combination of preventive measures and control over external aggravating factors.

One of the most effective prevention is to eat a skin-friendly diet before stretch marks appear. If planning to get pregnant or if one is already underway but still in its first trimester, modify your diet to include adequate amounts of zinc, silica, vitamins A, C and E, protein from healthy sources, sufficient water and zero caffeine. This will help make your skin elastic - particularly the dermis, the middle layer of your skin which snaps and causes the unsightly marks - so it can withstand stretching as your belly grows. A skin-deep prevention would be to lather generous amounts of cocoa butter unto your skin to prevent a host of skin irritations that often strikes pregnant bellies.

While cocoa butter comes highly recommended as a preventive topical application while stretch marks are just beginning to make appearance, vitamin E creams containing alpha tocopherol are reported to work better against stretch marks that develop in pregnancy among women who had stretch marks from previous pregnancy.

Another cause of stretch marks that you can control is how quickly you gain weight. While you can't control the baby's size, the volume of your amniotic fluid, or the fact that you are carrying twins – all factors that contribute to how large your belly will stretch – you can exercise portion control. By gaining weight steadily but slowly, you give your skin more time to adjust than when you gain all of the 25 pounds during the last trimester.

If stretch marks continue to haunt you long after your last child was born, just continue with your skin-friendly diet and moisturizing regimen even without apparent result. Stretch marks fade over time, and by then they won’t be as unsightly; they may even make you proud of your motherhood.