What is the Linea Nigra and Why Does it Appear?

linea nigraWhat is the linea nigra? Why does it appear? How can you prevent it from worsening?

The linea nigra is the dark line that runs vertically from your navel to your pubic bone during pregnancy, often known as the ‘black line’ or ‘pregnancy line’. This line is the darkening of the linea alba, or ‘white line’, that generally goes unnoticed prior to getting pregnant. The linea alba normally goes unnoticed because it is very close to the natural pigment of your skin, but it has always been there. The linea nigra is simply the darkening of this line during pregnancy, and normally fades back to normal after birth.

The linea nigra typically shows up during the 5th month, or 2nd trimester, of pregnancy and continuously darkens throughout the remainder of your pregnancy. The line is typically ¼ to ½ inch inches wide and stretches vertically across your stomach from your pubis to umbilicus. The cause of the hyperpigmentation of the linea alba is unknown. However, there are some theories as to why this occurs.

Why Does the Linea Nigra Appear?

Though the actual cause of the linea nigra is unknown, it is thought to be related to the imbalance in your hormones during pregnancy. One of the theories is that the melanocyte-stimulating hormone, created by the placenta, causes the hyperpigmentation to occur. This is thought to be the main contributing factor to skin hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, including other areas such as your areolas, face, arms, and legs.

The melanocyte-stimulating hormone controls the pigment of your skin. During pregnancy, the levels of this hormone continuously rise, causing hyperpigmentation to different parts of your skin. The linea alba, since it is located closest to the source (the source being the uterus and the umbilical cord, which have been found to have the highest concentrations of the melanocyte hormone), darkens quickly. Other than the linea alba, you may also find that other parts of your skin darken during pregnancy. Chloasma or ‘the mask of pregnancy’ is a condition in which your face, or parts of your face, darken as your pregnancy progresses. Another possible effect during pregnancy this hormone has is the darkening of the areolas.

There is an old-wives tale that the linea nigra can tell you the sex of your baby. The theory is that if the line extends from your pubic bone to your navel, you are having a girl. If it extends past your navel, you are having a boy. Though this is not an accurate measure of the sex of your baby, it can make the line less aggravating and it can keep you feeling light. Trying to determine the sex of your baby using the linea nigra can make you feel better about the darkening skin and keep your spirits up.

Keep in mind that the linea nigra is a completely natural part in pregnancy and it is a sign of a healthy, developing pregnancy.

How Can You Prevent it From Appearing?

Though there is no way to completely stop the hyperpigmentation process of the linea nigra, there are measures that you can take to prevent the line from worsening.

One thing that you can do to prevent the line from worsening is to limit the area’s exposure to the sun. Melanocyte is triggered by UV-light. The more exposure the area has to sunlight, the darker your pigment in that general area will be. It’s the same hormone that assists in tanning. If you do not want the line to worsen, stay covered in sunlight if at all possible and apply sunscreen to the area regularly. This will help your skin to keep more of its natural pigment and minimize the exposure to UV-light.

Another way to keep the line from worsening is ensuring that your folate intake remains accelerated and steady. High amounts of folic acid have been proven to keep your skin-pigment constant. Low amounts of folic acid, or folic acid deficiency, have been found to worsen hyperpigmentation. In some cases, folate-deficiency anemia may occur, causing a loss in skin pigment making your skin extremely pale. Making sure to eat lots of green, leafy vegetables, fruits and whole grains, coupled with taking your prenatal vitamin daily, can potentially keep the line from darkening.

Though there is no way to keep the linea nigra from appearing, don’t worry. This line is completely natural and normally fades shortly after giving birth. If the line doesn’t fade completely, this is no cause for alarm either. Sometimes, the line take a few months to fade completely. Sometimes, the line doesn’t fade completely, it only lightens. Think of this as a mark of accomplishment rather than an annoyance. Think of it as a wonderful marking to a new stage in your life.

Why Should You Love It?

The linea nigra is a mark of something wonderful. Bringing a child into this world is the biggest accomplishment you could ask for. Keep in mind that the line will fade, either partially or completely. If it doesn’t fade completely, keep a positive outlook. Remember that that line is an indicator that you brought someone extremely special into this world. If you are concerned about the worsening of the line, take preventative measures to keep the line from getting worse.

If you find the line concerning, or even getting excited (yes, some women get excited to finally exhibit the linea nigra, as it shows signs of a healthy pregnancy!), there are plenty of discussion forums regarding the linea nigra that you can join. In these discussion forums, you will find supportive women who are experiencing the same symptoms presently, or have experienced your concerns in the past. These discussion forums can help you to feel infinitely better and less stressed about the development of your pregnancy, whether it’s the linea nigra, chloasma, or any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

This line is a normal part of pregnancy. Everyone woman experiences it. Embrace it and look forward to your future with your brand new little one, battle scars and all.