“What’s this Line?” – Everything You Need to Know About the Linea Nigra
Published September 14, 2017
Have you been talking with all of your expecting friends about the never ending changes your body goes through during pregnancy?
Are you wondering what exactly this weird little pregnancy stripe they keep speaking of and when will it show up during your pregnancy?
You just may be in the 75% women that 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 that your pregnancy hormones are kicked in gear.
In this article, we will 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’ve probably just never noticed it before.
Before pregnancy, this line running down your abdomen is called the linea alba (latin for “white line”). During pregnancy, this line is often darkened and is now called 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 is rather light to dark brown.
The linea nigra is usually about ¼ to ½ inch wide and runs vertically down your abdomen from your navel to your pubic bone. For some women, it will stretch 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. Once these muscles, start to separate to accommodate your growing uterus, it is often accompanied by the presence of the linea nigra.
An Old Wives Tale
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 personally, 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.
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 that the extra estrogen that’s secreted by your body during pregnancy stimulates cells in your skin called melanocytes. Melanocyte cells produce the pigment that darkens your skin, hence the presence of the linea nigra (source).
Other Skin Changes During Pregnancy
The same process that enhances the linea nigra, is thought to be the reasoning for several other skin changes during pregnancy as well, such as:
Darkening and enlargement of nipples
Darkening of moles, birthmarks, and freckles
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, but if you ever have any concerns, it never hurts to ask your healthcare provider.
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.
For me personally, the linea nigra started showing up in the middle of my second trimester.
The linea nigra will probably be more noticeable if you have darker skin compared to if you had 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 (source).
Can I Prevent Linea Nigra?
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to completely prevent this natural phenomenon of pregnancy.
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 10am and 4pm).
Cosmetic makeup: You can powder the area to cover up the linea nigra for a few hours.
Lemon juice: Some women suggest that the acidity of lemon juice on your skin helps fade away hyperpigmentation.
Eat right: There is some evidence out there that folic acid deficiency is linked to skin discolorations. Eating a healthy pregnancy diet, rich in folic acid can help minimize (but not completely prevent) the presence of the linea nigra. Your prenatal vitamin should have some folic acid in it, 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 in your diet, as it is important for your health and baby’s development.
What to Avoid
You should never apply skin bleaching creams to your linea nigra, especially those that contain hydroquinone. They have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding and have even 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 they have more melanin than lighter-skinned people.
In rare instances, the linea nigra never fades away after pregnancy (source). If this is the case for you, then consider it a wonderful reminder that you were able to grow another human being inside of your very own body.
A Normal Part of Pregnancy
The linea nigra is a natural pregnancy phenomenon that 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, there are some women that never fully develop this black line.
If this line 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 though and will most likely go away shortly after your baby is born. So for now, try to embrace this natural pregnancy occurrence and enjoy your changing body that is sustaining another life.
Did you develop the linea nigra during your pregnancy? Comment below and let us know when you first noticed this dark line. Be sure to share this post with all of your expecting friends.