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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The dark line on your pregnant belly is the linea nigra, sometimes called the pregnancy line. About 80 percent of pregnant women will see the linea nigra form in pregnancy, usually after the first trimester. It is not unique to pregnancy. It can form when you are not pregnant, even in men.

Characteristics of the Linea Nigra

The linea nigra typically runs from your pubic bone to the top of your umbilicus (belly button), but it can extend all the way to your sternum.

It is usually about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide. You may see that it gets lighter as it goes up. It may also be darker or lighter than you see on other pregnant women. These variations seem to be normal and not a concern.

The line often shows up around the fifth month of pregnancy. Sometimes it seems to appear suddenly. One mother noted that it seemed to appear one day when she got out of the shower and she didn't know what to make of it. The pregnancy line will often darken through your pregnancy.

Causes of the Pregnancy Line

This line is probably caused by hormones in your body that change during pregnancy, although the exact cause is unknown. The placenta may release a hormone that stimulates melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin to pigment your skin or give you a suntan. You may notice that your nipples darken during pregnancy, which could be due to this factor.

An old wives tale says that you only develop a pregnancy line when you are pregnant with a boy.

That is only a myth. Women pregnant with girls also develop a pregnancy line. Having a linea nigra is not a way to determine whether someone is pregnant. Although more common in pregnant women, it is also seen in a significant percentage of girls, boys, men, and women who are not pregnant.

No Treatment Needed

Some women are disturbed by how the pregnancy line looks.

However, there isn't really anything that you can or should do to make it go away, short of giving birth. 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. It's best not to irritate your skin.

The Linea Nigra After You Give Birth

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

Sources:

Bieber AK, Martires KJ, Stein JA, Grant-Kels JM, Driscoll MS, Pomeranz MK. Pigmentation and Pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2017;129(1):168-173. doi:10.1097/aog.0000000000001806.

Hassan I, Bashir S, Taing S. A clinical study of the skin changes in pregnancy in Kashmir valley of north India: A hospital based study. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2015;60(1):28. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.147782.

Okeke LI, George AO, Ogunbiyi AO, Wachtel M. Prevalence of linea nigra in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate carcinoma. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012;51:41-43. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05564.x.

Pregnancy Line—Linea Nigra. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-concerns/pregnancy-line-linea-nigra/.

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