Linea Nigra: What It Is, Causes And How To Get Rid Of It

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Your body undergoes several changes during pregnancy. Besides the weight gain, expanding belly, and protruding navel, 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.

In This Article

What Is Linea Nigra?

Linea nigra is a natural and harmless phenomenon during pregnancy

Image: IStock

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 from the upper abdomen to 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 causes various changes in the skin pigmentation (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 (around 20 weeks of gestation) and fades away shortly after the birth of your baby (1). However, it’s worth noting that some individuals might observe it even earlier, as blogger Michelle Lynn (Hasbrouck) Raasch shares, stating, “I actually have this line since about week 14 (i).” 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 or pigmentation compared to those with fairer skin (3). But does this line mean anything?

Linea Nigra And The Old Wives Tale

Old wives’ tales suggest that linea nigra could predict the baby's gender

Image: Shutterstock

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 it’s 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.
Lemon juice helps fade the hyperpigmentation on the skin

Image: IStock

  • 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).

protip_icon Quick tip
If certain creams, lotions, or hair-removal methods make the linea nigra appear darker, discontinue them and ask your healthcare provider for a safer option.

How To Get Rid Of Linea Nigra Post Pregnancy?

Creams and oils can help lighten the linea nigra after delivery

Image: Shutterstock

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.

protip_icon Things to know
Some women who choose not to breastfeed the baby may use bleaching creams to get rid of the linea nigra. However, use it only under the doctor’s advice (8).

Is The Linea Nigra Visible When You Are Not Pregnant?

Laser treatment can be used to treat linea nigra after delivery

Image: Shutterstock

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any complications associated with Linea Nigra?

Pregnant women may notice the darkened skin and linea nigra during pregnancy, which is usually harmless and should not cause concern (9).

2. How is linea nigra diagnosed?

Linea nigra is identified through clinical diagnosis, much like other physiological changes in the skin that occur during pregnancy. No particular tests need to be performed (3).

3. What are the long-term effects of linea nigra?

Linea nigra often fades after giving birth. However, some women may still have dark skin in that area. If they become pregnant again, the line may return (3).

4. Is there any scientific evidence linking linea nigra to certain environmental factors?

There is no direct scientific evidence linking linea nigra to specific environmental factors. linea nigra primarily appears as a physiological phenomenon characterized by increased pigmentation. Although the precise mechanisms of its formation are still under investigation, it is widely acknowledged that hormonal changes play a significant role (1).

5. Are there any genetic factors associated with linea nigra?

Genetics is not believed to be associated with the development of linea nigra. However, the line’s visibility may differ based on an individual’s skin tone. For example, darker skin tones tend to exhibit a more prominent line than lighter ones due to higher pigmentation in the former case (8).

6. Is there any correlation between linea nigra and certain medications?

There is no established correlation between linea nigra and specific medications. However, the use of oral contraceptive pills when not pregnant can lead to similar pigmentation changes (10).

7. Does the linea nigra usually appear on both sides of the abdomen?

No, linea nigra appears as a line that typically runs from the belly button to the pubic bone. However, a vertical curvature called the linea semilunaris may sometimes be observed on either side of the stomach due to embryonic differentiation in pregnancy (11).

8. What is the difference between a linea nigra and melasma?

Linea nigra and melasma are separate skin conditions. Linea nigra appears as a dark vertical band on the abdomen during pregnancy (3) (8), while melasma manifests as brown patches on the face (12). Unlike linea nigra, melasma can occur outside of pregnancy due to family history and sun exposure, besides other factors. Although both conditions involve changes in pigmentation, their locations and causes vary.

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.

notable clinical features of liea nigra or pregnancy line (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Linea nigra is a dark line that appears around the second trimester of pregnancy and disappears after delivery.
  • It occurs due to the production of melanin triggered by estrogen and progesterone.
  • Staying away from the sun, consuming foods with folic acid, and applying lemon juice can minimize its visibility.
  • Ingredients such as vitamin E, nutgrass extract, and cocoa butter can be used to minimize the appearance of Linea nigra after delivery,

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Linea Nigra: Pregnancy Line.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-concerns/pregnancy-line-linea-nigra/
  2. Melanin.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/melanin
  3. Linea nigra.
    https://dermnetnz.org/topics/linea-nigra
  4. Rita V. Vora et al.; (2014); Pregnancy and Skin.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311336/
  5. Pina Bozzo et al.; (2011); Safety of skincare products during pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114665/
  6. Adekunle Olufemi George et al.; (2005); The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569341/?page=3
  7. Pseudocyesis.
    https://www.npjournal.org/article/S1555-4155(16)00222-1/pdf
  8. Linea Nigra
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23488-linea-nigra
  9. Extensive hyperpigmentation during pregnancy: a case report
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183040/
  10. Brown Abdominal Line During Pregnancy; Obstetric Excellence
    https://www.obstetricexcellence.com.au/pregnancy-concerns/brown-abdominal-line/
  11. Ali Nassereddin and Hussain Sajjad; 2022; Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis: Linea Semilunaris;
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555983/#
  12. Melasma
    https://dermnetnz.org/topics/melasma
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