Have you been wondering about that vertical dark line that casually appeared on your belly during pregnancy? What is it, how did it get there, and when will it go away? As far as pregnancy symptoms go, this dark line (a.k.a. the Linea Nigra (Latin for “dark line”) or “pregnancy line”) is one of the less bothersome ones compared to pregnancy sickness, heartburn, or swollen and achy feet – you can’t feel it, and it’s not something to be worried about.
If however, like Cardi B, you’re not the biggest fan of your Linea Nigra, you might be wondering when it will go away.
“Ladies how do you guys get rid of the black line in the middle of your stomach after giving birth?? cause b****” – Cardi B
Linea Nigra - Frequently Asked Questions
From what causes it and how long it takes to go away, to if there is anything you can do to make it fade faster, here’s everything you need to know about the Linea Nigra.
What is that dark line on my pregnant belly?
Although rare, the Linea Nigra can appear on both men and women at various points in life, not just pregnancy. During pregnancy, however, the placenta starts to make an array of hormones and one such hormone, the melanocyte-stimulating hormone called Melanin, starts to make certain body parts visibly darker such as the nipples, melasma - a.k.a. the pregnancy face mask and the Linea Nigra.
This dark line usually starts from the belly button and goes all the way down to the groin. However, some women can get it spanning from the groin all the way up to the breastbone. The line is normally less than 1cm wide and can be various shades of brown.
Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife said: ““Linea nigra is the dark line that can develop down the centre of your bump as your pregnancy progresses. This line usually stretches from the top of the pubic hair to the belly button, although it sometimes extends above the belly button.
“It is caused by the increased oestrogen levels experienced in pregnancy, which boost the body’s production of melanin, a natural substance that gives your skin pigment. Exposing your bump to sunlight can make this line become darker in colour. Some women also experience more hair growth on their bump, too.
“It is a common occurrence in pregnancy and won’t cause any harm to you or your baby. The line usually fades or disappears completely a few months after childbirth.”
Can you get Linea Nigra without pregnancy?
As mentioned, although it's rare, you can get Linea Nigra without being pregnant and even men can get it. In some cases it can even develop in children too.
There are various different causes for it when you're not pregnant. This includes medications such as birth control that can affect hormones, health conditions and exposure to sun. As it's often triggered by a hormonal change, it could be worth speaking to your GP, to discuss what the underlying cause might be.
When does the Linea Nigra start to make an appearance?
The Linea Nigra most often appears around the fifth month of pregnancy, although it can be earlier or later. Fun fact: this line is actually present on all humans and is called the Linea Alba (Latin for “white line”). This line is described as “the tendinous median line on the anterior abdominal wall between the two rectus muscles.” Even though the line is always there, unless you’re pregnant and have all those melanin-forming hormones surging through you, the line is so faint that you can’t tell it’s there unless you’re actively looking for it.
Does the Linea Nigra serve a purpose?
Technically, no, but there are a few old wives’ tales on the matter. One says that, because our babies can only really tell light and dark when they're born, mother nature makes certain parts of us darker, such as nipples and the Linea Nigra, so that our baby can find their way around our body easier. Isn’t that just adorable?
Lesley said: “Although there is no evidence to support this, it makes sense that the changes in our bodies serve to benefit our newborn babies in their first days and weeks of life as their sight and senses are developing.”
Another fable is that the location of the line on your belly can serve as a gender predictor. Apparently, if the line is just below your belly button, you're expecting a girl, but if it goes anywhere above your belly button, then you’re having a boy.
Lesley says: “This old wives’ tale has no basis in truth and, like many gender predictor theories, is a guessing game with a 50/50 chance of being correct.”
Is the Linea Nigra permanent?
The Linea Nigra is not permanent, and is something that will fade totally on its own, even if you don’t take any steps to correct it sooner. Although you might not like the look of it, this dark line is not something to worry about as it poses no danger to you or your unborn child.
Is the Linea Nigra a stretch mark?
No, it cannot be classed as a stretch mark. A stretch mark is literally the distention of the skin caused by over stretching. Stretch marks affect the dermis (middle) layer of the skin and leave an embossed or indented visible scar on the surface of the skin. The Linea Nigra only affects the epidermis – the top layer of your skin, and so is comparable to a tan rather than a stretch mark, and can fade on its own without a trace, whereas a stretch mark is permanent.
How long does it take the Linea Nigra to fade?
This line might hang about for quite a few months after you have your baby but is commonly faded within the first few months postpartum, and completely gone within a year.
Is it guaranteed that I will get a Linea Nigra if I fall pregnant?
While it's very common during pregnancy, there is still a small percentage of women that won’t get it, so you might fall into that category. However, the more melanin you have in your body, the likelier it is that you will get a Linea Nigra during your pregnancy.
Is there any way to prevent a Linea Nigra?
There is nothing you can do to prevent the line, and there is no way of knowing if you will get one or not. In order not to make it more visible, however, keep your bump out of the sun and make sure you eat your greens and take your folic acid so as to avoid hyperpigmentation.
How can I make my Linea Nigra fade faster?
It might seem like it’s taking a while, but the line will definitely fade before you know it. If you are still concerned and want to try to eliminate the line sooner, once your baby is born, you can see a dermatologist and see what skin-lightening treatments are available. Keep in mind that harsh methods such as laser or bleaching creams are typically advised against if you’re still breastfeeding. At home, you could try rubbing lemon juice on the line and gently scrubbing the area with a scrub or loofah while you’re in the shower.
Lesley says: ““If you are concerned about it for any reason, seek advice from your midwife or doctor. It is best to avoid using bleaching products or creams on the linea nigra during
pregnancy or breastfeeding as this could be harmful to your baby. You may want to ensure you wear sunscreen if your belly is exposed to the sun, as sun exposure can make the line darker.”
Meet the expert
Lesley Gilchrist BSc (Hons) Midwifery Studies, MSc Clinical Research Methods
Registered Midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, Lesley, began her career as a staff nurse in intensive care before starting her midwifery training in 2001 in Newcastle. Throughout her career, Lesley has worked in large teaching hospitals both on delivery suite and within the community.