During the second trimester, many women experience linea nigra. Learn why it occurs and when you can expect it to disappear.
You may be here because you woke up this morning with a faint line spanning from your belly button to your pubic area. Or perhaps you’ve been reading too many mommy-to-be forums and are concerned about the dark line that will soon plague your growing stomach.
Don’t worry, linea nigra is completely normal and develops in most pregnant women during the second trimester.
The linea nigra – meaning ‘black line’ in Latin – is a dark, vertical line that appears on the abdomen in approximately three quarters of pregnancies. It typically spans between ¼ and ½ inches wide and stretches down the belly from the umbilicus to the pubis, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
My very own linea nigra appeared around week 23, just a few weeks shy of my third trimester. While I knew the line was harmless, I still had questions: What causes the pregnancy line? Does everyone get it? Will it ever go away?
What Causes Linea Nigra?
Pregnancy hormones, progesterone and estrogen, are accountable for the darkening of the nipples, areolas, clitoris, and the linea alba. The linea alba – meaning ‘white line’ in Latin – is an invisible white line that runs down the midsection in both pregnant and non-pregnant people.
When pregnant, hormones like estrogen cause an increase in melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives the hair, skin, and eyes their color. Extra melanin production during pregnancy causes the linea alba to darken during the course of gestation.
While the line may be startling, it’s actually a good thing. Your linea nigra serves as an explicit sign that your hormones are functioning properly.
The color of your linea nigra can vary from faint to very dark, depending on your skin color. Often, women of Asian, Hispanic, African, and Indian ethnicity will have a more pronounced linea nigra. However, lighter-skinned women can also develop the line.
What the Experts Say
Many myths surround the topic of the linea nigra. There’s even an old wives’ tale that states that you’ll have a boy if your linea nigra continues above your belly button. If it stops under your belly button, you’re having a girl. While old wives’ tales are just for fun, there has been much research regarding the pregnancy line that actually rings true.
Here’s a look at what some experts have to say about the linea nigra:
“It starts just under the naval and ends at the top of the pubic bone. The line, clinically referred to as linea nigra, seems to be a pretty good indicator of how ripe your melon may be. The more prominent and dark the line is, the closer you are to giving birth.”
– Frankly Pregnant, Stacy Quarty, Miriam Greene, M.D.
“It usually starts to appear during the second trimester and most often will begin to fade a few months after delivery (although it may never go away entirely).”
– What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel
“Changes in pigmentation are seen in up to 91 percent of pregnant women, tend to be more frequent in women with dark hair or complexions, and are progressive throughout pregnancy.”
– Maternal, Fetal, & Neonatal Physiology, Susan Tucker Blackburn
“Sun exposure makes linea nigra even darker. These skin changes are due to hormonal influences on the skin pigment cells in these areas.”
– Pregnancy for Dummies, Jane Palmer, Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman
“Most women develop a linea nigra. This line runs over the diastasis recti. Itching, rashes, skin tags, hives, acne, increased hair growth, angiomas or vascular spiders, and palmar erythema are also not uncommon changes to the skin.”
– Prenatal Message, Elaine Stillerman
Fading of the Linea Nigra
While the linea nigra will eventually go away, it may not be as soon as you hoped. The pregnancy line disappears slowly over the course of several weeks or months. If you are breastfeeding, it could take even longer for it to fade. Certain environmental factors such as sun exposure can also make the line darken again.
While there’s no way to prevent the natural phenomenon, you may find that your pregnancy line isn’t as dark if you maintain a proper diet during pregnancy. Research has found a link between linea nigra and a lack of folic acid. Taking prenatal vitamins and eating foods rich in folic acid is believed to help reduce the appearance of linea nigra, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.
Linea nigra is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy, affecting women of all ages, skin colors, and backgrounds. There is no treatment for the pregnancy line as it occurs naturally and will usually fade away soon after the baby is born. To prevent the line from darkening, remember to always wear sunscreen outdoors.