The Linea Nigra

It’s rather exciting when your baby bump starts to grow.  As you’re glowing from the bliss of pregnancy and starting to get some attention for being an “adorable pregnant lady,” all the sudden you notice this strange line forming on your belly.  Has a tape worm invaded your body and stretched perfectly across your precious bump?  Did your skin stretch so much that it’s splitting in two?  What is that line?  It’s the linea nigra, translated to “black line,” that often appears during pregnancy.

The linea nigra is a dark vertical line about 1 cm wide that stretches from near your belly button area to the pubic bone.  It begins to show around the mid-point of pregnancy when the belly begins to significantly expand and skin is stretched tightly.  The truth is, the line has always been there but it is usually known as linea alba or “white line.”  linea nigra__1451438733_108.89.137.58During pregnancy, hormones cause many skin areas to darken including the linea nigra, areolas, upper lip and other facial skin hyper-pigmentation known as “the mask of pregnancy.”  Although medical professionals are not exactly sure why the linea nigra appears, one theory is that the placenta creates a hormone that affects melanocytes, which leads to skin darkening.

While it may not be the most desired beauty mark you’ve ever had, the linea nigra is completely normal and doesn’t affect your health or the health of your baby at all.  Up to 75% of women get the linea nigra at some point during their 9 ½ months of pregnancy.  It tends to be more pronounced on women with darker skin although it can occur on all skin types and people from any background.  The linea nigra usually fades gradually until it returns to its normal skin-tone color a few months postpartum.

Sun exposure can darken the linea nigra and other hormonal skin pigmentation issues during pregnancy.  It is best to keep your belly out of the sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen when you do plan to be bare belly.  Never use whitening creams during pregnancy or even afterwards, especially if you are breastfeeding.  Trust that the linea nigra will fade over time.

Some experts believe that a diet rich in folic acid can reduce hyper-pigmentation during pregnancy, including the linea nigra.  Folic acid is an essential nutrient during pregnancy anyways and is found in most pre-natal vitamins.  It can also be found in foods such as whole grains, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables like kale, spinach and cabbage.  Some women claim that massaging pure lemon juice into your belly after childbirth helps reduce the appearance of the linea nigra due to its acidic content.

The bottom line is that the linea nigra is a normal part of pregnancy and there is not much you can do about it.  Rather than see it as a negative, try to view it as a badge of honor for this exciting time in your life.