Do you have a dark line – linea nigra as it’s officially known – on your pregnant belly?
Pregnancy brings many changes to your body. Some you expect, like that growing bump; others you don’t, such as hair growth in unusual places.
One of the changes you might not be expecting is variation in skin color – especially a dark pregnancy line appearing up the middle of your belly.
In fact, this different colored line has always been there but, when it turns to linea nigra during pregnancy, it has just become more noticeable.
Linea nigra definition
There is a fine channel down your middle where the connective tissues of your abdominal muscles meet underneath the skin.
This 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 begins to darken and is known as linea nigra – Latin for ‘black line’.
This pregnancy line is never actually black, but more brown in color.
Linea nigra usually runs from your pubic bone up to your belly button, or higher. Sometimes it continues towards your ribs.
Linea nigra during pregnancy
During pregnancy, because of increased levels of estrogen, your body produces extra melanin.
Melanin is a pigment responsible for darkening the skin and, in pregnancy, causes the linea nigra to appear.
Increased melanin also causes the area around your nipples (areolas), your labia and clitoris to darken in color.
The increase in melanin during pregnancy can also make the skin on your forehead, upper lip, nose and/or cheeks turn darker.
These facial skin changes are known as melasma, or ‘the mask of pregnancy’.
Linea nigra – when does it appear?
Pregnancy hormones are responsible for the appearance of the linea nigra.
As your pregnancy progresses, the linea alba begins to darken.
The change usually appears from the second trimester of pregnancy although it can happen earlier.
The line is more pronounced on darker skin than on fair skin, and might be more noticeable sooner.
The width of the linea nigra is usually about 0.5 to 1 centimeter.
Linea nigra treatment
You can’t prevent linea nigra from occurring. Neither can you make linea nigra go away. It’s a natural part of pregnancy.
Exposure to the sun can make linea nigra darker, even if you use sunscreen.
If you want to avoid the line becoming very dark, it’s best to keep your baby bump undercover during pregnancy. Clothing is the best option or perhaps use a high sun protection factor sunscreen
Even after birth, sun exposure can make the skin darken again.
Research has shown folate can help control skin discoloration like linea nigra. A hormonal imbalance can be caused by a folic acid deficiency.
You should be getting adequate folate before pregnancy to prevent neural defects like spina bifida.
Good dietary sources of folate are leafy greens, lentils, beans, fresh orange juice and mushrooms.
If you want to know more you can read Folic Acid For Pregnancy – Facts You MUST Know.
Home remedy and pregnancy diet
Lemon juice is known as one of the top home remedies for our health.
You can also use it to reduce the appearance of the dark vertical line. Prepare a mixture of lemon juice, honey, and sugar, and gently scrub your belly, to exfoliate.
Folate is recommended to reduce the appearance of linea nigra, and it’s also good to add to your diet. Foods rich in folate are beneficial for you and the health of your child.
After all, good health is a gift to your child from conception and right throughout life.
Does the linea nigra predict the baby’s sex?
Old wives’ tales about pregnancy are among people’s favorite topics.
There is an old wives’ tale that says if the line in your abdomen starts from your pubic bone and ends at your belly button, you’ll have a girl.
If the pigmentation continues past your navel to the bottom of your rib cage, apparently you’re having a boy.
Another pregnancy myth says only women who are having boys will have the linea nigra.
Although 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 a 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.
Fascinated by old wives’ tales and baby sex predictions? Be sure to read Boy or Girl – What Am I Having? 16 Old Wives Tales.
Does everyone get linea nigra?
Not all women will actually see a line on their abdomen, particularly if they have very fair, pale skin.
Not having a linea nigra isn’t a bad sign. It’s simply about your physical make-up, and the way your body responds to higher levels of estrogen and melanin.
Race and different skin colors play an important role in this hyperpigmentation of the skin. Women with naturally darker skin might find the line appears more pronounced than in those with lighter skin.
It’s important to know the linea nigra isn’t harmful to you or your baby.
Everyone is different and whether or not you have linea nigra has nothing to do with having a normal healthy pregnancy.
Of course, if at any time you have any concerns about your pregnancy symptoms or your baby’s development, speak to your care provider.
Linea nigra is not straight
Don’t worry. For most women the linea nigra isn’t a straight belly line.
When you’re not pregnant, this line is hardly noticeable.
As your baby continues to grow your belly button might start to misbehave.
As the pregnancy advances, your skin’s distension causes the linea nigra to take a unique and personal turn around this midline area.
Linea nigra – when does it disappear?
As we’ve mentioned earlier there’s nothing wrong with the linea nigra. After the birth of your baby, the line usually fades and disappears, although in some cases it will remain.
For most pregnant women the hyperpigmentation condition of the skin fades as soon as hormone levels go back to pre-pregnancy status. It should gradually fade within the first few months of motherhood.
Linea nigra without pregnancy
If you aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding, or if hyperpigmentation of the skin on your stomach doesn’t disappear when your baby is a few months old, there might be other factors causing your skin to darken.
- Age. Hormonal changes during puberty or menopause can increase your melanin production. After menopause, our skin darkens more easily and faster the older we get
- Race. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of our skin. Black skin has the highest melanin concentration of all. The darker your skin color is, the more likely linea nigra is to appear
- Sun exposure. Pigmentation of the skin following sun exposure is a normal reaction. The sun’s rays make our skin go darker if it’s unprotected. It can also make certain parts of our skin, like the linea nigra turn even darker.
- Sex hormone levels. Some hormonal conditions might also cause this line to darken. This study shows estrogen and progesterone, the main female hormones, play a key role in the synthesis of melanin. High estrogen or testosterone levels trigger the production of melanin. Women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (high levels of estrogen) report linea nigra as a symptom.
- Medication. Estrogen-based medication like birth control or fertility treatments might be responsible for your skin’s hyperpigmentation. Other medications that can cause darkening of the skin are testosterone-based muscle building supplements, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarials, cytotoxic drugs, tetracyclines, and psychotropic drugs.
If you are worried you might have a hormonal imbalance, or you’re on any treatment that might be responsible for your melanin increase, make sure you talk to your healthcare provider.
Does linea alba go away?
The line that’s responsible for linea nigra being visible is the linea alba. This is the connective tissue that meets in your midline. This is always present, even after pregnancy. It’s too pale to be seen without the influence of hormones and melanin.
Does linea alba go away after pregnancy?
You will always have this line but, as mentioned above, it is usually too light to be seen.
It’s possible for separation of the abdominal muscles to happen during pregnancy. This is when the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles) spread apart at the linea alba.
A physiotherapist specializing in women’s health can assist with recovery.