What Is With The Dark Line On My Pregnant Belly?
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You’ve found out that you’re pregnant and have embraced your pregnancy as a blessing. But, at some point, you develop a dark line that runs up and down right over your baby bump. Whoa! What’s that all about?
In this article:
- What Is The Dark Line On Your Pregnant Belly Called?
- When Does The Pregnancy Line On Your Stomach Typically Appear?
- What Causes The Dark Line On A Pregnant Belly?
- Does Everyone Get Linea Nigra?
- Can I Prevent Linea Nigra During Pregnancy?
- When Will My Linea Nigra Go Away?
What Is The Dark Line On Your Pregnant Belly Called?
Believe it or not, the line that appears on your belly when you’re pregnant has always been there. Only, before you were pregnant, it was so pale and light that it probably went unnoticed. During this time, the pale line was more white and known as Linea Alba.
But once you became pregnant and the line started darkening, the line became Linea Nigra. Translated in Latin, Linea Nigra means ‘black line’. Ironically, though, the line is actually light to dark brown, not black. Linea Nigra is also often called the pregnancy line.
The dark line runs vertically from your navel to the pubic bone and is usually ¼” to ½” wide. However, it can begin as high as your breastbone. As your pregnancy progresses, the line will usually get darker and darker.
Linea Nigra marks the area where your left and right abdominal muscles meet in the center. These muscles usually separate a little during pregnancy to accommodate your uterus as your baby grows. As this happens, the line usually becomes more pronounced.
When Does The Pregnancy Line On Your Stomach Typically Appear?
Most women begin to notice their pregnancy line around the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, though, for some women, it appears much earlier.
Some women have said they knew they were pregnant because their pregnancy line darkened in the first few weeks of their pregnancy.
There’s nothing set in stone about when a pregnancy line might appear on your abdomen. But, most women can expect to see it in the middle of their second trimester.
What Causes The Dark Line On A Pregnant Belly?
First of all, let’s set something straight. The dark line on your pregnant belly is perfectly normal.
Researchers aren’t 100% sure, but most believe hormones are likely to blame for pregnancy lines. The placenta releases a hormone that stimulates the growth of melanocytes. These are the cells in the skin that produce melanin, a dark brown to black pigment that’s responsible for giving you a tan when you sunbathe.
Around the same time you develop your darkening pregnancy line, you may also notice that the nipples of your breast darken as well. It probably happens for the same reason your baby bump develops that dark line.
Now, that we’ve got the scientific explanation out of the way, there’s a fun little piece of folklore that offers another reason you might have a darkening pregnancy line. The myth is that if you have one, you’re more likely to give birth to a boy. Remember though, it’s only a myth.
Another wive’s tale says that if the line stops at your belly button, you’re more likely to have a girl. But if it runs all the way up to your ribs, you’re more likely to have a baby girl. It’s fun to note that my first child was a girl and my dark line did indeed stop at my navel!
But, my second child was a boy and once again, my pregnancy line did a full stop at my belly button.
So much for old wive’s tales!
Does Everyone Get Linea Nigra?
Up to 80% of expecting moms notice a dark line on their belly as their baby incubates inside of them. Women who have dark skin are more likely to have darker pregnancy lines than women who are fair-skinned.
On the other hand, it may be more noticeable in fair-skinned women because of the contrast between the lighter skin and the darker line.
It’s also interesting to note that Linea Nigra can also occur in people who aren’t pregnant, including children and men.
If you have Linea Nigra and have never been pregnant, you could have a hormonal imbalance or a condition, such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, or Addison’s Disease. Seek the advice of a doctor to rule out these conditions if you have a vertical, dark line on your abdomen.
Can I Prevent Linea Nigra During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, Linea Nigra is just one of the battle scars we must bear when we become pregnant. It’s a natural occurrence and little can be done about it.
You may be able to minimize the darkened line or cover it up if it bothers you. You can:
- Spend less time in the sun. It makes sense that if the placenta stimulates a hormone that increases the production of melanin, avoiding the sun should be at the top of your list to minimize the darkening of your pregnancy line. Spending time in the sun will only enhance the darkening of the line. If you were born to be out in the sun or want to spend time outside, cover up your belly or apply sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to stay out of the direct sun. If you must venture out, do so during the early morning or late afternoon hours.
- Eat a nutritious diet rich in folic acid. There’s a little evidence that increasing your folic acid intake may lighten the discoloration caused by your pregnancy line. But, even if this isn’t the case, pregnant women sometimes develop a folic acid deficiency. So you can think of it as serving a dual purpose. While your prenatal vitamin should have some folic acid, it doesn’t hurt to eat foods rich in folic acids, such as spinach and other leafy greens, brown rice, oranges, oatmeal, and beans. Folic acid is not only good for you, but it’s also good for your baby’s healthy development.
- Cover it up with makeup. While some women do this, especially when swimming and such, I wouldn’t do it myself. For one, I’m kind of a health freak and would avoid applying makeup over the area my baby is developing. But, to each her own, and if your pregnancy line really bothers you, it’s always an option.
- Apply lemon juice to the area. It’s been suggested that the acid from the lemon can help fade pigment on your skin. While I can’t say 100% whether it works or not, a little lemon juice couldn’t hurt and it probably feels refreshing and might soothe your tired belly.
A darkened line during pregnancy is nothing to worry about. Think of it as a visual roadmap to your pregnancy. Don’t allow these skin changes or other changes to your body to define your self-worth or make you feel less attractive. On the contrary, you are beautiful, Mama. You’re a superhero to your baby and pregnancy is a meaningful, treasured time for both of you.
Whatever you do, beware of applying bleaching creams or other products that claim to make your pregnancy line disappear. Most of these are not only unproven but could be harmful to use while you’re pregnant. In some cases, they’ve even been shown to increase your risk of skin cancer or birth defects in your baby.
When Will My Linea Nigra Go Away?
In most cases, Linea Nigra is a temporary condition that usually fades away after you give birth to your baby. It’ll usually be less pronounced after birth but lightens more and more as time goes on. It can take a few months to see a noticeable difference.
If you’re darker-skinned, it could take even longer because you’re more susceptible to retaining some of the pigmentation caused by Linea Nigra.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun or if you breastfeed, it can take longer to disappear. But, don’t let that dissuade you from breastfeeding if that’s what you want to do. It’s a little price to pay for giving you and your baby quality bonding time that will last a lifetime.
There are rare occasions that Linea Nigra never goes away. Don’t fret if this turns out to be the case for you. Embrace it as a reminder that you gave life to another human being.
A pregnancy line is cosmetic in nature and natural for your circumstance. And if you’re one of the few to not develop Linea Nigra during your pregnancy, that’s totally okay too.
Office On Women's Health, Body changes and discomforts, 2019.
MedlinePlus, Skin and hair changes during pregnancy, 2018.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Pregnancy and Skin, 2014.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Skin Conditions During Pregnancy, June 2014.
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, The Incidence of Lower Mid-Trunk Hyperpigmentation (Linea Nigra) Is Affected by Sex Hormone Levels, May 2005.
- Phyllis Breaux