What Is the Dark Line on My Pregnant Belly?

Linea Nigra in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman pointing to line on her belly
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Question: What is the dark line on my pregnant belly?

Answer:

The line on your pregnant belly is called the linea nigra, sometimes called the pregnancy line or misspelled linea negra. About 80% of pregnant women will see the linea nigra form in pregnancy, usually after the first trimester. Though it can form when you are not pregnant, even in men.

What Causes a Linea Nigra to Form in Pregnancy

This line is caused by hormones in your body increasing in pregnancy.

An old wives tale includes that this only happens to the mother of boys, but I have spoken to many women with babies of both sexes, all of whom have found the linea nigra present. Given the prevalence of this pregnancy line, it would be difficult to say that 80% of women experience it when we know that about half of the pregnant women will have a baby girl. So, it is not a way to tell if you are having a boy or a girl.

Typically it runs from your pubic bone to the top of your umbilicus (belly button), but it can extend all the way to your sternum. You may see that it gets lighter as it goes up. This is not a problem. It may also be darker or lighter than others but is usually always present.

"I don't even remember when it happened, it just seemed to pop up one day," remembers one mother. "I don't remember seeing it the day before and as I was getting out of the shower, I noticed it from the bathroom mirror.

I didn't know what to make of it.

Some women are disturbed by how it looks. There isn't really anything that you can do to make it go away, short of giving birth. However, doctors warn against using medications or lotions on it. Bleaching the skin is harmful and will not remove the line. If you are really concerned, please talk to your doctor or midwife.

Your sensitive skin will thank you.

What Happens to the Linea Nigra After You Give Birth

It will fade after you give birth. That vast majority of them will see it fade in the first months postpartum, as the hormone levels return to a pre-pregnant state. When this happens varies slightly woman to woman. Most women aren't even paying attention to it and simply notice at some point that it is no longer there.

"I actually miss the line," says Amanda. "It seemed like a pregnancy indicator to me. I had it with all of my pregnancies and when it went away that last time, I knew I wouldn't see it again."

Sources:

George AO, Shittu OB, Enwerem E, Wachtel M, Kuti O. J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 May;97(5):685-8. The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels.

Hassan I, Bashir S, Taing S. Indian J Dermatol. 2015 Jan-Feb;60(1):28-32. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.147782. A clinical study of the skin changes in pregnancy in kashmir valley of north India: a hospital based study.

Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing. S.v. "linea nigra." Retrieved February 2 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/linea+nigra

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