All About Linea Nigra, The Pregnancy Line on Your Stomach

It's normal to develop a dark line on your stomach, also known as linea nigra, during pregnancy. Here's what expectant parents should know about this common symptom.

Linea Nigra
Emma Darvick . Photo: Emma Darvick

You might have heard of classic pregnancy signs and symptoms such as morning sickness, your feet going up a size, and even hilariously wild dreams, but did you know you might also experience a darkened line appearing on your belly? Some pregnant folks will find what looks like a line drawn down the center of their abdomen and that line may appear faint or dark. Not sure how it got there or what it is? We talked to the experts to answer some questions about this curious pregnancy symptom.

What Is the Pregnancy Line on My Stomach?

The linea nigra is a dark center line stretching from the top of the pubic hair to the belly button (although it sometimes extends to the breasts) that can develop on the skin during pregnancy. This darkened line may seem strange, but it is perfectly normal and typically fades after giving birth.

What Causes Linea Nigra?

The linea nigra is a side effect of fluctuating hormones during pregnancy, including estrogen and progesterone; however, the precise cause for this curious change in pigmentation is still unknown to researchers. 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. People of all different skin colors are affected, although linea nigra can be more pronounced in those with fair skin.

When Does Linea Nigra Appear?

Linea nigra often appears in the second trimester and persists throughout pregnancy, says OB-GYN Michelle Tollefson, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of health professions, integrative therapies program at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Typically about 1 centimeter in width, the pregnancy 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% of people 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're 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 people say the acids help fade hyperpigmentation, says Dr. Sheth.

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 pregnancy line will disappear eventually!

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