Linea Nigra: The Pregnancy Line

By Tracy Wright
Close up of pregnant stomach

Pregnancy causes many changes to women’s bodies. One of the most unusual is a dark line occuring on the stomach from the belly button to the vagina. Known as the “linea nigra,” it occurs in many, but not every woman. In fact, up to about 80% of pregnant people will have a linea nigra. But it may be more or less noticeable depending on your skin color, according to Cleveland Clinic. But what causes this pregnancy line?

What is the linea nigra?

“Linea nigra, which is Latin for ‘black line,’ is a streak running from your belly button to your pubic region that may develop and darken during pregnancy,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The length, width and color of this pregnant belly line varies from person to person,” said The Bump.

The linea nigra usually doesn’t show up until about 20 weeks of pregnancy. The most important thing to remember is that this line isn’t at all harmful to mom or baby.

“The specific cause of the linea nigra is unknown, but it is believed to be related to the changing hormones or the imbalance of hormones as a result of your developing baby. One theory is that the melanocyte-stimulating hormone created by the placenta is the main contributing factor,” said the American Pregnancy Association.

Can you prevent the linea nigra?

There is no way to prevent linea nigra from showing up. Cleveland Clinic advises not to apply any ointments or bleaching agents on the line during pregnancy. When in the sun, sunscreen can be applied to ensure it does not get darker.

“Folic acid may help reduce the intensity of the linea nigra… found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans and whole wheat bread,” said Cleveland Clinic.

If you develop a visible linea nigra during your first pregnancy, you will likely have them in subsequent pregnancies as well. The good news is the line should fade after birth as your hormones regulate.

Sometimes women will still have the linea after pregnancy, and underlying hormonal conditions may contribute to this.

“If you still have a pregnancy line months later and want to treat it, skin whitening products might be an option (they’re not recommended during pregnancy). As always, check with your health care provider before using any over-the-counter products if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding,” said

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