Pregnancy is filled with changes of all sorts. From the ever-expanding belly to swelling legs, thicker and darker hair, nausea and mood swings – pregnancy holds many physical surprises.
You may have been prepared for many of the most common symptoms of pregnancy that we all hear about all the time, but you might be shocked when something unusual as a distinct line appears on your belly sometime in your second trimester.
It’s not a trick of the light, and no, you didn’t rub against something. So what is it?
What Exactly Is The Linea Nigra
This line is called the linea nigra, which translates from Latin to “black line”.
Your line might appear a much lighter brown, about a ½ centimeter in width. Technically, this line already existed on your body, but as the unnoticed linea alba, or “white line” in Latin.
This line darkens and becomes visible in about 75% of all pregnancies, making it very common. The darkness of the line varies depending on your genetics, skin tone, and possibly your sun exposure.
This article will tell you what this line is, why it appears, how to reduce its appearance, and whether or not you need to be concerned if it shows up during your pregnancy.
When Does Linea Nigra Appear?
The Linea Nigra usually appears once your belly starts growing and your pregnancy really starts showing. Most likely before you get stretch marks, you’ll see the line start to appear.
This is usually somewhere during your 5th month of pregnancy (around week 22 to 25), although it can sometimes happen sooner.
What Causes This Dark Pregnancy Line To Appear On Your Belly?
The linea nigra is a natural occurrence in pregnancy. Although still somewhat of a mystery, it’s thought to be caused by the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, the placenta causes increased levels of estrogen and melanin. Melanin directly affects pigment of the skin and could be responsible for darkened freckles, hair, areolas on nipples, the darkened facial patches, “pregnancy mask” called chloasma, and the appearance of the linea nigra.
The linea nigra can be darker in women with naturally darker skin, as there is more melanin already within the skin.
The opposite is also true, that the line can appear darker on a fair-skinned woman because of the contrast between the darkness of the line and the fairness of the skin.
How Can I Get Rid Of The Linea Nigra?
As a natural part of pregnancy caused by hormones, there’s nothing you can really do to get rid of the line completely except for having your baby.
Things will then take care of themselves naturally – the linea nigra will then fade over the course of several months and eventually disappear completely. Occasionally, though, a very faint line will remain.
There are, however, several ways to possibly lighten the line and make it less visible.
Used frequently by men and women alike to soften and soothe dry, irritated skin, as well as reduce stretch mark appearance – cocoa butter can help lighten up that dark brown line.
Lemon juice can be used by itself, dabbed on your skin with a cotton swab, or in a honey-lemon-sugar scrub.
Use gentle, circular rubbing motions with the scrub and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before washing off.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Similar to lemon juice, ACV has skin-lightening properties when applied directly to the skin and allowed to dry.
Besides, there are multiple benefits to taking apple cider vinegar while pregnant that you should also know of, unrelated to dealing with the linea nigra.
Vitamin E Oil
This can be found in most stores, however, make sure that you’re getting 100% vitamin E oil and not diluted with any other kind of oil.
You can get capsules, simply break one open and apply on the line (and any stretch marks that have appeared), or buy in bulk from online.
Using skin protection from UV rays in the sunlight can help prevent skin darkening of all kinds.
Use sunscreen on your belly when you hit the beach to prevent sunburn and the linea nigra from getting worse.
Extrapone Nutgrass Root Extract
This more unusual remedy is homeopathic in nature. It’s a topical oil that is said to fade discolorations.
Used mostly in China and India, Nutgrass has many supposed uses, including treating wounds and bruises, preventing tooth decay and resolving digestive troubles (when taken internally).
It can be found online and in some health food stores.
You should wait until after pregnancy to use this remedy, but many women find that it completely takes off the linea nigra with just a few applications.
Other women can experience irritated skin and still have a line, so be aware that’s a chance you’ll take.
Our advice? Don’t take the risk on this if you can try something else on this list that works for you. And if you insist on trying it, discussing this with your doctor first is best.
This important vitamin should be contained already in your prenatal vitamin, as it’s desperately needed for growing a healthy baby. It can also help reduce the coloring of the linea nigra.
What Should I Avoid Doing?
You should never use bleach or any bleaching creams on your pregnant belly, as their safety has not been verified for use during pregnancy and may harm your baby.
Be sure to test topical remedies in very small amounts first to make sure your skin does not become irritated.
If at any time and when trying any remedy you notice redness, dryness, itching or pain, then stop using the culprit remedy and find another – perhaps more gentle – one to try.
The linea nigra will naturally disappear after you have your baby, but sometimes takes many months to fade completely. This occurs because of the fluctuating hormones that are still in your system even after your baby is born.
Can The Linea Nigra Predict My Baby’s Gender?
Midwives’ tales are interesting and fun, using everything from the shape of your pregnant belly to your cravings to what position you conceived in so they can predict the gender of your baby.
At the end of the day, no midwives’ tale has any real chance of predicting an unborn baby’s gender, and the tales about the linea nigra being able to do so are no different. This is especially the case since most of these “theories” contradict one another.
One view says that if you have a line on your belly at all, then you’re having a baby boy. Another says if your line only goes to your belly button, then you’re having a girl, and if it extends up to your ribcage then you’re having a boy.
Have fun with midwives’ tales, but don’t put too much stock in them. Take them with a pinch of salt.
Each pregnancy still has a 50/50 chance at either giving birth to a baby boy or a baby girl, and receiving an ultrasound is the best way to predict gender. After 14 weeks of pregnancy, ultrasound has a 75% success rate in predicting the gender of your baby.
These days you probably know your baby’s gender before the linea nigra ever has a chance to show up, unless you’re “team yellow” and waiting to find out your baby’s gender on his or her birthday.
Causes of Linea Nigra Outside Pregnancy
The Linea Nigra doesn’t always appear during the course of a pregnancy, it sometimes rears its ugly head completely outside the context of a pregnancy.
Hormonal Birth Control
Birth control uses hormones to trick your body into believing it’s already pregnant, causing fertilized eggs to be unable to implant in your uterus. They do this by raising your hormone levels, including estrogen.
This mimicking of pregnancy can cause the linea alba, normally invisible, to darken and become linea nigra, even outside the context of true pregnancy.
There is no need to be concerned about this occurrence, but you can always talk to your doctor about it for reassurance.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a chronic illness that affects women.
One side-effect is elevated estrogen levels, which – as you know by now – can cause linea nigra to appear. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have this condition.
If your body doesn’t produce enough cortisol, it will go into adrenal failure – a serious condition requiring diagnosis and care with a physician.
Here are some other symptoms of Addison’s Disease that need to be considered. If you think this condition might apply to you, please set up an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.
Other hormonal imbalances can cause linea nigra to appear. In most cases, the appearance of the line is nothing to worry about, but when accompanied by other symptoms and conditions, it’s best to seek medical help so anything serious is ruled out (or discovered at – hopefully – the earliest of stages).
I Don’t See Any Lines At All, Should I Be Worried?
There is nothing to worry about at all if you don’t get the linea nigra during pregnancy. Again, this line usually appears in 75% of pregnancies, not in 100% of pregnancies.
It’s a unique body response due to your own mix of chemicals and hormonal response. There’s never any need to call your care provider if you’re pregnant and you don’t get a linea nigra, or even if you do get it.
Wrapping It Up
Whether it comes earlier, later, or not at all – the linea nigra is a perfectly normal (even very common) occurrence in pregnancy.
Sometimes the darkness of the line can be affected by different remedies as mentioned above, but like most things in pregnancy, the linea nigra will return to being the linea alba not too long after you deliver your child(ren).
The best solution is to come to love your body through all of the changes it goes through during pregnancy.
It may be difficult for you to dig in deep and find this confidence and love for your body during this stage, and it’s completely normal for you to feel that way.
However, connecting with the baby you’re growing makes it easier, and confidence is sexier than any smooth, blemish-free skin.
Glow from the inside out by loving yourself through every stage of this incredible time – you’re doing a great job!