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Linea Nigra: Causes & Treatment Of The Pregnant Belly Line 2023

Cassi Donegan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

linea nigra

Many women develop an early pregnancy line on their stomachs. This line on your growing belly goes by the name linea nigra. 

Most pregnant women go through multiple skin changes while they’re expecting. This skin discoloration on your midsection is one of the many common skin conditions you’re likely to experience during your time carrying a baby, like stretch marks, skin tags, and melasma, which are dark skin patches of pigmentation that often develop on your face. 

Some of these changes, like linea nigra, even carry on past your baby’s birth into your postpartum phase. You can even develop linea nigra if you’re not pregnant, and no man, woman, or child seems guaranteed exempt. 

So is there anything you can do to treat this lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation? Let’s talk about what causes linea nigra and if there’s a way to get it to go away. 

What Is The Linea Nigra?

The linea nigra is a dark line on the stomach of over 90%[1] of pregnant women or any person experiencing health changes that result in skin changes. Linea nigra is Latin for black line, but depending on how many pigment-producing cells your body is making determines how dark it is and if this line is more the color brown or black. 

Where Is Linea Nigra Located?

Also known as the pregnancy line, linea nigra appears as a vertical line that extends from the pubic bone up to the belly button, and in some women, it goes beyond that to the upper abdomen.

It’s not always straight and can appear with unique curves for every woman. It’s frequently offset and not precisely in the center of the belly. The majority deviate slightly[2] to the right of the belly’s center. 

There are similar pigmentations on the legs in some women, called Futcher’s lines,[3] that arise from the hormonal stimulation of melanocytes. 

When Does Linea Nigra Develop?

Believe it or not, this line develops before birth and is always there on everyone’s stomach. Before it reveals itself as a dark line, it is called the linea alba, a white, near-invisible line. From the lower end of your breastbone to your pelvic bone, this line has a purpose. 

Linea alba[4] is a narrow band of fibrous connective tissue that helps to separate the right and left side of your abdominal muscles called the rectus abdominis, better known as the six-pack.  

Then, as a person’s body goes through specific changes, like pregnancy, a linea nigra can appear. This dark line is one of the normal physiologic changes that many pregnant women go through. 

Every woman is different, but typically the line starts appearing around week 20 in the second trimester. Less commonly, linea nigra will show up in early pregnancy, during the first trimester.

The Purpose Of Linea Nigra

There are old wives’ tales concerning linea nigra’s purpose. Some say the dark, visible line may help the new baby to locate the mother’s chest for breastfeeding. 

Others use the line to try and predict the baby’s gender. Depending on the position of the linea nigra indicates if a boy or girl is coming. The speculation is that if the line stops at your belly button, it’s a girl, and if it continues above the belly button, it may be a boy.  

Scientifically, the line may represent where migrating tissue met during fetal development to close the abdomen. 

What Causes Linea Nigra?

Every person produces melanin, a dark brown or black pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. The amounts of melanin you have vary, depending on factors like genetics and sun exposure. 

If you have fair skin, then you create less melanin, while making more melanin produces darker features and darker skin. The skin cells that contain melanin are in the deepest layer of your skin and are called melanocytes.

For a pregnant woman, linea nigra starts to appear when hormone levels rise,[5] specifically estrogen, progesterone, and the elevation in the melanocyte-stimulating hormone that the placenta potentially stimulates.

Other Causes Of Linea Nigra

For someone who is not pregnant and experiencing this belly line due to fluctuating sex hormone levels, this line can appear in both young and old. 

There are certain health conditions and medications that can promote hormone changes that can influence linea nigra, such as:

  • Puberty.
  • Menopause.
  • Hormone-altering birth control.
  • False pregnancy, or pseudocyesis.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Addison’s disease.
  • Benign Prostate Hyperplasia.
  • Prostate Cancer.

How To Treat Linea Nigra

You may be wondering when linea nigra will go away or if you can do anything to treat it and speed up the process. Since this skin change is a perfectly normal and natural thing that can happen during pregnancy, medical treatment of this black line isn’t necessary for a healthy baby and body. 

There’s no way to prevent linea nigra or predict if you’ll experience this line, but if you have a darker skin complexion already, your line may be more visible than with other moms. Then, as pregnancy goes on, it can become darker and more visible. 

This line is always there and will fade on its own back to normal after your hormones re-balance in your postpartum season. The amount of time this takes varies from person to person. Typically, the line fades back to invisible within the first postpartum year, while in others, the line may fade but never go away. 

If you’re breastfeeding, your hormones may remain elevated enough to extend the duration of linea nigra’s appearance. While you cannot erase the pregnancy line, let’s go over a few things that have the potential to help a mother out. 

Skin Care 

linea nigra

If you’re pregnant and it’s really taxing on your mental health to see the black line, or if you’d rather your belly-showing maternity pictures be sans line, some makeups can help you temporarily cover it up. Avoid using bleaching products and other harmful chemicals on your skin since it absorbs into your body — and maybe into your baby. 

Since the ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause tanning and darken your skin even more, wearing a safe sunscreen and covering your belly to block sun exposure can help prevent an increase in the pregnancy line’s visibility. 

Post-pregnancy, as the line starts to go away, you can try gentle exfoliation to encourage the shedding of old skin and regrowth of new skin with less melanin. 

Hormone Re-Balancing

linea nigra

If your baby has already been born, you may have seen your line start to lighten as your pregnancy hormones balance back out. Speaking with your certified nurse midwife or doctor about hormone-balancing techniques may be an option. They may recommend breastfeeding-friendly herbal remedies and lifestyle changes to help your body get back to normal as soon as possible.   

Adequate Folate And Vitamin D

linea nigra

Research hypothesize that skin discoloration or extensive hyperpigmentation may increase due to deficiencies in folate and vitamin D.[6] Since these are both essential for optimal pregnancy and baby development, taking a quality prenatal supplement and eating a healthy pregnancy diet with foods rich in vitamin D and folate is always a good idea. However, it may or may not help reduce linea nigra, since further studies need to be done to come to this conclusion. 

The Bottom Line

The black vertical line on most pregnant women’s bellies is linea nigra. This line is always there but is so light you can barely see it until hormone changes increase the skin’s color pigments. 

For now, there’s no way to predict or prevent this pregnancy line and no sure way to get rid of it. 

There’s no need to treat linea nigra during pregnancy since this is a normal, harmless darkening of a line that defines the tissue that helps to separate abdominal muscles. If you must, use non-toxic makeup to cover up the line and apply sunscreen to prevent an increase in color. 

Since the line may be here to stay, try not to dwell negatively on it or affect your self-esteem. After birth, when your hormone levels start to return to normal, you may experience the line fading back to normal, one of the bitter-sweet signals that your pregnancy has come to an end. 

+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Kim, B.J., Ahn, J.Y., Park, K.Y., Lee, E.S., Huh, C.H., Won, C.H., Kwon, O.S. and Kim, M.N. (2008). The clinical study of linea nigra in pregnancy. Korean Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, [online] 51(3), pp.290–296. Available at: https://www.ogscience.org/journal/view.php?number=1512
  2. Klotzel, D., Zamuner, M., Machado, A.M.N., Amadatsu, C.T. and Liao, A.W. (2020). The anti-clockwise spiralization of the linea nigra sign. Einstein (São Paulo), [online] 18. doi:10.31744/einstein_journal/2020ao5432.
  3. Europe PMC (2016). Europe PMC. [online] Europepmc.org. Available at: https://europepmc.org/article/med/24087785
  4. Nassereddin, A. and Sajjad, H. (2022). Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Linea Semilunaris. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555983/
  5. The Incidence of Lower Mid-Trunk Hyperpigmentation (Linea Nigra) Is Affected by Sex Hormone Levels. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569341/pdf/jnma00186-0055.pdf
  6. Jones, P., Lucock, M., Veysey, M. and Beckett, E. (2018). The Vitamin D–Folate Hypothesis as an Evolutionary Model for Skin Pigmentation: An Update and Integration of Current Ideas. Nutrients, [online] 10(5), p.554. doi:10.3390/nu10050554.
Cassi Donegan

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Cassi Donegan, Licensed Practical Nurse, is a freelance health writer and editor. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in various specialties including Neurology, Orthopedics, Spine, and Pediatrics. Patient care has convinced her to be passionate about educating others on nutrition, natural childbirth, home birthing, and natural remedies for the holistic and alternative healthcare field.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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