Your body undergoes several changes during pregnancy. Besides the weight gain, expanding belly, and protruding naval, you may also see a dark, vertical line running down from the middle of your abdomen to the pubic bone. It is called linea nigra, harmless hyperpigmentation that commonly appears in the first trimester. It gradually wanes after delivery.
Read on to learn more about linea nigra, including its causes and ways to make it disappear after delivery.
What Is Linea Nigra?
Linea nigra is a 6-12mm darkened line that runs from your navel to the pubic bone and is evident during pregnancy. The line can also extend vertically, right from the upper abdomen until the pubic bone (1).
This line is present on the belly before pregnancy but in a lighter shade that makes it invisible. The less-evident line is called the linea alba, where alba means ‘white’ in Latin. The line is darker and prominently visible during pregnancy and is called linea nigra, where nigra means ‘black’, although the line is usually light or dark brown and not black (1).
The linea nigra also indicates the separation of the abdominal muscles on each side of your torso, due to the growing uterus.
What Causes The Linea Nigra?
During pregnancy, the secretion of estrogen and progesterone hormones triggers the Melanocyte cells in the skin to release a pigment called melanin, which darkens the skin (2). This also causes the linea alba to darken, creating the prominent linea nigra. Linea nigra is a natural phenomenon during pregnancy and a harmless line that you need not worry about.
When Does The Linea Nigra Appear?
The linea nigra is noticeable from the second trimester and fades away shortly after the birth of your baby (1). In some women, it may not fade away completely and in some, it may not show up at all during the pregnancy. Some others may start noticing it a little later in the pregnancy. The line usually becomes visible from the fourth or fifth month and expands in width as the belly grows.
The pregnancy line is prominent in women with darker skin compared to those with fairer skin (3). But does this line mean anything?
Linea Nigra And The Old Wives Tale
According to old wives’ tales, the linea nigra helps to predict the gender of the baby. It is said that,
- If the line runs from the bottom of the rib cage to the pubic bone, it is a boy. If the line runs from the navel to the pubic bone, then its a girl.
- The dark line helps the baby breastfeed by guiding them to the areola. Also, the baby can recognize the areola from the smell, which is similar to the smell of the amniotic fluid that was surrounding him/her.
There is no scientific evidence to prove these claims.
Can The Linea Nigra Be Prevented?
Linea nigra is not a condition, but a natural phenomenon that occurs naturally. So there is no way to prevent or need to treat it. If the line is making you conscious about your appearance during pregnancy, follow these tips to minimize its visibility.
- Stay away from the sun: Too much exposure to the sun rays during pregnancy leads to skin discoloration. You can use sunscreen or wear dresses that cover your belly from the rays. Using an umbrella when you are out or avoiding peak hours when the sun is harsh, can prevent the line from getting darker.
- Cosmetic: You can cover up the line by padding cosmetic powder on the area. It will tone down the darkness of the line.
- Lemon juice: It helps fade the hyperpigmentation on the skin.
- Foods rich in folic acid: It is hypothesized that proper intake of folic acid can help minimize the presence of the linea nigra (4). Green leafy vegetables, whole wheat bread, oranges, and cereals in the diet along with prenatal vitamin supplements can help.
However, avoid using any bleaching creams, especially those containing hydroquinone. As the skin is delicate during pregnancy, this depigmenting agent easily gets absorbed. Though no adverse effects are confirmed, it is better to minimize the exposure to any chemical agent during pregnancy (5).
How To Get Rid Of Linea Nigra Post Pregnancy?
Here are a few home remedies you can try to make the line less visible post pregnancy.
- Unrefined cocoa butter is good for lightening the skin. You can rub it over the abdomen during and after pregnancy.
- Rubbing Vitamin E gel on the abdomen helps tone the skin by lightening it.
- Massage creams and oils that tone the skin can help lighten the color of the line.
- Nutgrass extract is also useful for lightening the skin.
- A homemade mask made with lemon, raw sugar, and honey applied on the abdomen and left for 10-15 minutes can lighten the linea nigra. You can do it a few times a week.
Is The Linea Nigra Visible When You Are Not Pregnant?
The dark line can be noticeable even in women who are not pregnant. Here’s why.
- Hormonal changes can cause the hyperpigmentation of the linea alba and darken the line (6).
- A woman with Pseudocyesis or false pregnancy, a somatic disorder in which a woman has external signs of pregnancy without a fetus inside, may also have a visible linea nigra due to hormone changes (7).
- There are also several skin depigmenting agents that can be prescribed by your doctor.
- Laser treatment can also be an alternative during the postpartum period.
Linea nigra commonly appears in many pregnant women from the mid of their pregnancy. This dark line running vertically down the belly button can be cosmetically concerning. However, doctors may not prescribe any medications since it gradually fades away after childbirth in most women. It is one of the natural body changes due to pregnancy hormones that can make you feel proud and enjoy your pregnancy journey. There is nothing greater than bringing life to the world, and you should not be bothered by these temporary changes. However, you can seek medical advice before undergoing cosmetic therapies during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Infographic: How Does Linea Nigra Look Like In Pregnancy?
Characteristics of linea nigra can vary in each woman. Some may have a faint line, while others may have a darker line. Go through the infographic to learn more about the clinical features of linea nigra.
- Linea Nigra: Pregnancy Line.
- Linea nigra.
- Rita V. Vora et al.; (2014); Pregnancy and Skin.
- Pina Bozzo et al.; (2011); Safety of skincare products during pregnancy.
- Adekunle Olufemi George et al.; (2005); The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels.
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Dr. Burcu Saygan Karamürsel(MD)
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