Pregnancy Line - Linea Nigra - What IS That Dark Line?

Have you been talking with all of your expecting friends about the never-ending body changes during pregnancy?

Are you wondering about the weird little pregnancy stripe they keep speaking of and when will it show up during your pregnancy?

You just may be in the 75 percent of women who will experience the linea nigra during pregnancy. This natural pregnancy phenomenon is nothing to worry about, but rather should be embraced. It’s just a sign your pregnancy hormones have kicked into gear.

Let’s discuss what the linea nigra is, why it occurs, when it appears, if there is anything you can do to prevent it, and if it goes away.


What Is The Linea Nigra?

Did You Know?

You’ve actually always had a linea nigra; you probably just never noticed before.

Before pregnancy, this line running down your abdomen is called the linea alba (Latin for “white line”). During pregnancy, this line often darkens and becomes the linea nigra (Latin for “black line”).

Most women will develop this “black line” of pigmentation, which stretches down the center of your enlarging abdomen, at some point throughout their pregnancy. Despite its Latin name, this pregnancy line is never really black, but light to dark brown.

The linea nigra is usually about quarter to half an inch wide and runs vertically from your navel to your pubic bone. For some women, it stretches all the way up to their upper abdomen or even right below their breasts (source).

This line marks the point where your right and left abdominal muscles meet in the middle. The separation of these muscles, to accommodate your growing uterus is often accompanied by the presence of the linea nigra.

The linea nigra is a skin change that many women struggle with. This line of pregnancy usually vanishes after pregnancy. I encourage women to embrace the differences in their bodies as visual representations of their venture into motherhood. If this change is negatively affecting your self-worth, reach out to your OB professional or a mental health professional.
Headshot of Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Editor's Note:

Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

An Old Wives Tale

Rumor has it that this dark line on your belly could help you predict the gender of your baby. One old wives’ tale is that only women who bear boys have this line. Another, more familiar, wives’ tale is that if the line ends at your belly button, then you’re having a girl, but if the line continues up to the bottom of your rib cage, then you’re having a boy (source).

Keep in mind that these are just myths, and there’s always a 50/50 chance of getting it right. I proved both of these myths wrong, as my linea nigra did show up and extended up into my rib cage, but I ended up having a little girl.

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What Causes The Linea Nigra?

The presence of the linea nigra is a completely normal part of pregnancy and does not cause any harm to you and your baby. However, the cause of this pregnancy line is a bit of a mystery.

The main theory right now is extra estrogen secreted by your body during pregnancy stimulates cells in your skin called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the pigment that darkens your skin, hence the linea nigra.

Other Skin Changes During Pregnancy

Many people say the same process which enhances the linea nigra, is responsible for several other skin changes during pregnancy such as:

Darkening of skin on the face, also known as chloasma, “the mask of pregnancy.”

All of these skin changes are completely normal and most fade away after your baby is born. Still, if you ever have any concerns, it never hurts to ask your healthcare provider.

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When Does The Linea Nigra Appear?

For most women, the linea nigra starts to be noticeable at the end of the first trimester or near the beginning of the second trimester. For other women, it does not appear until a little later in the pregnancy, or it never shows up at all.

My linea nigra started showing up in the middle of my second trimester.

It will probably be more noticeable with darker skin compared to fair skin. Likewise, you will be less likely to develop a linea nigra (or it will be less noticeable) if you have a fair complexion.

Can I Prevent Linea Nigra?

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent this natural phenomenon of pregnancy completely.

However, if it truly bothers you, there are a few things you can do to cover up and minimize the linea nigra:

  • Avoid the sun: Spending too much time in the sun can intensify your skin discoloration during pregnancy. When outside, use sunscreen or cover up your belly with clothes. You can also stick to the shade, use a tent or umbrella, or avoid peak hours for UV rays (between 10 am and 4 pm).
  • Cosmetic makeup: You can powder the area to cover up the linea nigra for a few hours.
  • Lemon juice: Some women suggest the acidity of lemon juice on your skin helps fade away hyperpigmentation.
  • Eat right: There is some evidence linking folic acid deficiency to skin discolorations. Eating a healthy pregnancy diet, rich in folic acid can minimize (but not completely prevent) the presence of the linea nigra. Your prenatal vitamin should contain some folic acid, but you can also get folic acid from leafy greens, oranges, and whole wheat bread and cereals (source). Even if you’re embracing this pregnancy line, it’s still important to get plenty of folic acid, as it is important for your health and baby’s development.

What To Avoid

Never apply skin bleaching creams to your linea nigra, especially those with hydroquinone. They have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Worse still, they’ve been shown to impose risks, such as birth defects, dark gray spots, and skin cancer.

Does The Linea Nigra Go Away?

Yes, the linea nigra does eventually go away for most women. It usually lessens shortly after birth and then fades away a few months later.

However, it may disappear slower if you are breastfeeding or spending a lot of time in the sun. It may also take longer if you have darker skin, as darker-skinned people are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation because of their additional melanin.

In rare instances, the linea nigra never fades away after pregnancy. If this is the case for you, then consider it a wonderful reminder of the time you grew another human being inside of your body.

Linea Nigra But Never Been Pregnant

If you have a prominent linea nigra but have never been pregnant, you may be concerned. Determining the cause depends on whether or not you’ve always had a highly visible linea nigra. If it hasn’t changed throughout your lifetime, it’s likely nothing to worry about.

However, if you’ve recently noted a darkening and confirmed the absence of pregnancy, you might need to check with your doctor.

Because this line is largely brought on by the increase in hormones during pregnancy, it’s possible you might have some hormonal imbalance. There’s also a theory that it’s linked to an increase in insulin.

Conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Addison’s disease have been linked to more a prominent linea nigra. If you have other symptoms of PCOS such as irregular periods and excess body hair, seek medical advice (source).


A Normal Part Of Pregnancy

The linea nigra is a natural pregnancy phenomenon which is purely cosmetic and nothing to worry over. You will probably start noticing this dark line around your second trimester, as well as some other skin changes, such as darkening of the face and areolas. However, some women may never fully develop this black line.

If it truly bothers you, you can do some things to minimize it, such as getting plenty of folic acid and avoiding the sun, or simply cover it up. The linea nigra poses no harm and will most likely go away shortly after your baby is born. So for now, embrace this natural pregnancy occurrence and enjoy your changing body as you sustain another life.

Did you develop the linea nigra during your pregnancy? Comment below and let us know when you first noticed this dark line.

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47 Reader Comments

  1. Kelly

    Haha, I used to think it was the line they followed to open you up for a c-section!????

    • Jenny Silverstone

      ???????? Thanks for sharing Kelly!

  2. Michelle

    I had a very noticeable line below my navel and above it for my first 3 pregnancies, but not this time. I’m so curious as to why the difference!

  3. Janet

    I have it and I love it! 16 weeks on Tuesday!

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Good for you Janet! Love to hear that. Congratulations on the pregnancy and I hope everything goes according to plan 🙂

  4. Jimia

    Thank you! I’ve always wondered what that line was.

  5. Emily

    I never received it, I’m at 30 weeks now. I assume I’m in that 25% that doesn’t due to my very fair complexion and the fact that any time I’ve been in the sun I’ve always been fully covered!

    • selina

      Hi. I just noticed my line from my navel running down to my pubic area. Could I be pregnant?

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hey Selina, thanks for reading. The answer to your question will depend on whether or not you’ve always had a highly visible linea nigra. If it hasn’t changed throughout your lifetime, it’s likely nothing to worry about.

        However, if you’ve recently noted a darkening and confirmed the absence of pregnancy, you might need to check with your doctor. We hope this helps! 🙂

  6. Reyna Katsaros

    I actually noticed mine on my first trimester, around 8to 10 weeks and it goes all the way to the bottom of my rib cage. It doesn’t bother me at all! Right now I’m almost 27 weeks and waiting to meet my precious baby boy ????❤️

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Congratulations Reyna! Wishing you a smooth and joyous introduction to your gorgeous new boy! 🙂

  7. Lara

    The line is part of a map for the babies to find the breast. They can crawl up there and then find the bullseye with the darkened areolas? Have you noticed hormones make them dark as well? How beautiful is that? Your body is making a map for your little baby as when they are born there eyesight is still developing and they can see that contrast! ❤️

    • Jenny Silverstone

      That’s beautiful! I never really thought about it like that before, but it makes total sense. Thanks for sharing Lara! ❤️

  8. Trista

    I had it with my son during pregnancy. Never had it with my daughter until after I had her.

  9. Sam

    I have yet to have a baby and I clearly have one. I’ve never been pregnant, yet, either. I’ve always wondered about the very pale (most others cannot see it but I can) line on my tum

  10. Mallory

    I’m twenty weeks with my first and don’t have one yet. I was wondering if that was normal but I guess I might be a late bloomer or jut in the 25% that doesn’t get it. I started showing early, right at 13 weeks, so I thought I’d get that pretty early on too. Just happy to have a healthy babe! Great article thought it definitely put my mind at ease!

  11. Kristy h

    When I had my son a few months before giving birth this line showed up under my belly all the way down… I am now on my second pregnancy and ppl think the line is a c section line but I had my son naturally… Thanks to finding this I now understand y I have it.. 🙂

  12. I read was reading my 11 week update on The Bump app and it mentioned that you may start to see the line around this time. Sure enough, there it was. I have always seen a light line from my navel down but it’s a lot darker now and goes up to my rib cage. I am dark skinned so that’s probably why it’s so prominent. Curious to see if the old wives tale comes true.

  13. Haide chunilall

    I’m 38 weeks preggy now, and I have this linea nigra up to my rib cage. Im having a girl, so the said myth is just a myth.???? It doesn’t really bother me at the moment, but I’ve read other mothers say that it took them more than a year for it to disappear.

  14. KinLorin

    How wonderful! I googled this today due to the fact my baby will be 11 years old this August, yet, I STILL have the line, lol! (extending from the top of my rib cage on down to the pubic bone). So Blessed to have had two beautiful baby girls! ????

  15. I’ve always had this since I was a child. I thought it was a scar. Now I know what it is and I’m expecting a baby, so it’s getting darker.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Congratulations Riba 🙂

  16. Suzanne

    With my first pregnancy, I had it from my belly button on down, and I had a boy. I do not have it during this pregnancy, and we do not know the gender. We will find out in four weeks.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      How exciting! Congratulations on your new addition! Have any other moms seen the linea nigra with one pregnancy and not another?

      • Sandhya

        I have 2 girls and a boy – had the Linea Nigra very prominently running from under my belly all the way up to my rib cage for all 3 of them! 34 weeks pregnant now with my 4th, a girl and no sign of it!

        • Team Mom Loves Best

          That’s so interesting, Sandhya! Do you know the gender of your 4th?

        • cassandra

          Mine is below the navel. Did you have it with your 3?

  17. Brittany Middlebrook

    I had it with both my boys. But I’m 31 weeks preggo with my first girl, and I’ve been wondering where it is! Thanks for this article!

    • Jenny Silverstone

      I’m glad the article could help, congratulations on your little girl!

      Have any other mom’s of girls noticed that they do not have the linea nigra?

  18. Amanda Hall

    Thanks for the info. I have had that line in all three of my pregnancies they all are boys but not in this time, no line. I’m praying it’s a girl… lol

    • Jenny Silverstone

      I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you! Do you have any other signs that are pointing towards a girl?

      Best,
      Jenny

  19. Joanne phelps

    I love these comments, especially the ones about the map line. I am dark skinned and have had this line with all five of pregnancies, and I was pregnant with boys each time. It is actually what assured me I was pregnant this last time.

    I don’t really remember how long it takes for mine to go away, but it does eventually fade. I would always wonder why it wasn’t even with the top line lol, but I am so happy I found this article to give me some insight on why it even shows up.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Joanne, thank you for sharing your story! I felt like it took a little while for it to go away after my pregnancies, but I know it was gone before their first birthdays. If I’m ever pregnant again, I’ll have to pay attention to see how long it takes!

  20. Louisa

    I had this with all four of my pregnancies, and it has remained. I’m heading into my sixties, and it’s still there.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Thanks for this insight Louisa, I know it’s rare for it to stay after pregnancy but it can happen.

  21. Laura

    I started noticing it in my first trimester, and everyone said I was having a boy. It turns out they were right, I’m due with my son on January 21st, 2019!

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Laura, thanks for sharing your story with us. Congratulations on your little boy!

  22. Lainey

    I have had it since I was 12 weeks pregnant. Is that normal?

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Lainey! Yes, that’s totally normal. For most women, the linea nigra starts to be noticeable at the end of the first trimester or near the beginning of the second trimester. So, you’re right on track 🙂 We hope things are going well with your pregnancy so far?

  23. Maddie Thompson

    Mine just started to show up at 35 weeks! It starts at the top of my belly button and goes all the way up to under my breasts. It’s not centered either, it’s so awkward and cute! ❤️ I’m having a girl❤️❤️ (First pregnancy)

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Oooh, that’s interesting! Congratulations, Maddie! First pregnancy! How has it been so far? 🙂

  24. The line is how I learned I was pregnant. I also have have fair skin. I was about 4 weeks when it started to show. Just up to my belly button. Weird

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Ang! Thanks for sharing! That’s super interesting! How many kids do you have, if you don’t mind us asking? Did the line show up as early for all your kids (if you have more than one)?

  25. Macelina

    Hi! I am 8 weeks old and the dark line is already showing faintly.
    Thank you for all the explanations.

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Macelina, we’re glad to hear you enjoyed this post! Thanks for reading. Are you a first-time mom?

  26. Deepika

    I have this line through my 16th week but its not that much dark and I’m having twins! Thanks for sharing this post!

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Deepika, you’re welcome! Congrats on the babies and we wish you all the best 🙂

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