Linea Nigra: Everything You Need to Know

It's totally normal to develop a dark line on your stomach, also known as linea nigra, during pregnancy. Here's what you need to know about this common condition.

Linea Nigra
Emma Darvick . Photo: Emma Darvick

Linea nigra is a dark line stretching from the top of the pubic hair to the belly button, although it sometimes extends to the breast. It's totally normal while expecting, and it lingers after you give birth. We tapped into our experts to fill you in on this common condition, with tips for getting rid of it.

What Causes Linea Nigra?

The linea nigra is the result of fluctuating hormones during pregnancy. One theory is that the hormones cause your body to produce larger amount of melanin (a compound responsible for giving your skin pigment), and this extra pigmentation shows up as a dark pregnancy line on your stomach. Women of all different skin colors are affected, although linea nigra can be more pronounced in women with fair skin.

When Does Linea Nigra Appear?

According to OB-GYN Michelle Tollefson, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of health professions, integrative therapies program at Metropolitan State College of Denver, linea nigra often appears in the second trimester and persists throughout pregnancy. Typically about one centimeter in width, the line usually starts at the pubic bone and continues up to the belly button, though it can extend to just below the breast in some cases.

Is Linea Nigra Dangerous?

No, this pregnant belly line isn't dangerous, although its appearance may be disconcerting. In fact, up to 75 percent of women will experience this hormone-induced darkening of the skin during pregnancy. "It's considered cosmetic and nothing that is worrisome," says Dr. Tollefson.

When Does Linea Nigra Go Away?

Linea nigra typically resolves on its own within a few months of delivery, so many experts advise not treating it — especially during pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding. "Stay away from bleaching creams, as they often contain hydroquinone, which has not been proven safe to use if you are pregnant or nursing," says Vaneeta Sheth, M.D., an associate physician and instructor in dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

How to Get Rid of Linea Nigra

If you really want to get rid of linea nigra, Dr. Sheth says you may use bleaching creams after delivery if you're formula-feeding, or you could try a fade cream or topical retinol. If you want a natural approach, try applying a little lemon juice to your skin. "Some women say the acids help fade hyperpigmentation," Dr. Sheth says.

To minimize the discoloration, you should also keep your belly covered when you head to the beach, and don't use tanning beds (which you should be avoiding anyway). But rest assured that after your baby is born the line will disappear eventually!

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