The Linea Nigra
Pregnancy brings many changes to your body; some you expect, like that growing bump, and others you don’t, such as hair growing in unusual places. One of the changes you might not be expecting is a dark line appearing up the middle of your belly. The pregnancy line, or linea nigra as it’s officially known, has actually always been present but, around the middle of your pregnancy, it just becomes more noticeable.
What causes the more noticable appearance of this line and what can you do about it? Read on to find out.
What Is A Linea Nigra?
There is a line running horizontally down the middle of your stomach. This is where the connective tissue of your abdominal muscles meet and is called the linea alba, which is Latin for ‘white line’.
When you are pregnant, as your baby and belly grow and stretch the linea alba, the line begins to darken and is known as linea nigra – Latin for ‘black line’. The line usually runs from your pubic bone up to your belly, sometimes continuing toward your ribs.
During pregnancy, thanks to an increased production of estrogen, your body begins to produce extra melanin. Melanin is a pigment that causes skin to darken, and during pregnancy causes the area around your nipples (areolas), your labia and clitoris to darken in colour.
When Does A Linea Nigra Appear?
The reason why the linea alba begins to darken is unknown, but most women will notice it around the second trimester, although it can happen earlier.
The line is never actually black, but a brown colour, and it’s usually about ½ to 1 centimetre wide. The line usually darkens as your pregnancy progresses.
What Can I Do About It?
You can’t prevent linea nigra from occurring, as it’s a natural part of pregnancy. After the birth of your baby, the line usually fades and disappears, although in rare cases it will remain.
Exposure to the sun can make skin discolourations darker, even if you use sunscreen, so it’s best to keep your baby bump under cover during pregnancy. Even after birth, sun exposure can cause the skin to darken again.
Research has shown folate can help control skin discolourations like linea niagra. You should be getting adequate folate, pre-pregnancy, to prevent neural defects like spina bifida.
Good sources of folate are leafy greens, lentils, beans, fresh orange juice, and mushrooms. Find out the very important difference between folate and folic acid here.
Does Linea Niagra Predict Baby Gender?
There is an old wives’ tale which says if the line runs from your pubic bone and ends at your belly button, you will have a girl. If the line continues to the bottom of your rib cage, then you are having a boy. Another pregnancy myth says only women who are having boys will have the linea nigra.
While these myths are harmless, it’s important to remember not to place too much value on them. Each woman has a 50% chance of having a boy, and 50% chance of a girl, in each pregnancy.
Even in families where there seems to be a strong tendency toward having one gender, the odds of having a boy or a girl are exactly the same. This means 50% of the time the old wives’ tale will be right.
What If I Don't Have A Linea Nigra?
Not all women will actually see a line, particularly if they have very fair, pale skin. Not having a linea nigra doesn’t mean anything is wrong; it’s simply about your physical make up, and the way your body is responding to higher levels of estrogen and melanin.
Women with naturally darker skin might find the line will appear more pronounced than in those with lighter skin.
It’s important to know the linea nigra is not harmful to you or your baby.
Whether you have a line or not, linea nigra is not predictive of a normal healthy pregnancy. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy symptoms, or your baby’s development, speak to your care provider.
Recommended Reading: Boy or Girl? 16 Old Wives Tales And Gender Predictions.