Linea Nigra or Pregnancy Line and Everything You Need to Know

Pregnancy is one of the most important phases in a woman's life. However, the period comes with lots of changes as your body adjusts to accommodate the new life growing inside your belly. A peculiar change is a dark line which forms along the middle of your belly. We have done our research on linea nigra or pregnancy line and everything you need to know and packaged our findings. [1] 

Just like a baby bump, getting this line is unavoidable when expecting. This effect of pregnancy is mostly unwelcome, just like abnormal hair growth and stretch marks. To make matters worse, it progresses with every passing month and can persist long after giving birth. 

So, what causes this line? Is it a risk to your health, and can it be treated? Read on to find out. 

What is Linea Nigra or Pregnacy Line?

Linea nigra, commonly known as pregnancy line is a form of localized hyperpigmentation that affects about 75% of pregnant women. The name 'linea nigra' is of Latin origin and it means 'black line'. 

It refers to a brownish or blackish streak which runs vertically from the pelvic bone, through the navel and upwards to the top of your abdomen- just below the breasts. 

The line appears a few months after pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimester and persists through the rest of the term.

It differs in size from one woman to the other. Generally, it's about ½ cm to 1cm, or slightly above. Additionally, it's more common in women of colour than in lighter-skinned women. 

The degree of pigmentation also varies among individuals. In light-coloured women, the line is more pronounced compared to their dark-skinned counterparts. Skin colour aside, linea nigra usually darkens as your due date approaches.

What Causes the Pregnancy Line?

Linea nigra forms along the linea alba, a vertical line along the midline of your belly. This section is where your abdominal muscles' connective tissue meet. As the baby and your belly grow, the 'linea alba', Latin for 'white line' is stretched and begins to darken, forming the pregnancy line.[2

While the 'white line' is present in both men and women, it's only in the latter where it usually darkens. Hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy are behind this form of hyperpigmentation.

Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn

Mona Gohara, MD

Associate Professor of Dermatology,

Yale School of Medicine,

New Haven, Conn.

It results from increased melanin production in pregnancy...Higher levels of estrogen in the body ratchet up pigment-producing cells, making them go into melanin overdrive. [3]

Exactly how are these lines related to hyperpigmentation? As the foetus grows, more estrogen is produced, which in turn stimulates melanocytes to synthesize more melanin. 

Melanin is responsible for a couple of pregnancy-related hyperpigmentation issues. Such conditions include 'the mask of pregnancy' or melasma, linea nigra or pregnancy line, and the possible darkening of existing freckles, moles and birthmarks. Melanin gets more concentrated on the 'stretched' area, causing it to become darker than the other parts of the skin.

Can You Have Linea Nigra or pregnancy line if You are not Pregnant?

This kind of hyperpigmentation can also be brought about by hormonal imbalance not caused by foetal development. Causes of linea nigra when not pregnant may include;

  • Addison's Disease: This is a hormonal imbalance-induced disease brought about by adrenal insufficiency. One of the symptoms of the condition is a spike in melanin production- this can lead to linea nigra and the darkening other areas of the skin. [4
  • Hormonal birth control: Since hormonal birth control mimics pregnancy, don't be surprised if the high level of hormones triggers excess melanin production.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: This is another condition that disrupts hormonal levels in women. Like the others, one of its signs is increased pigment production that may also manifest as linea nigra. [5]

NOTE: If you notice linea nigra on your belly without being pregnant, it is advisable to see your doctor for further examination.

What is the Impact of Pregnancy Line on You or Your Baby?

Except for the fact that you may find the pregnancy line unsightly, it does not have any effect on you or your baby. It is just one of the changes that come with pregnancy. Some sources claim that the linea nigra can tell if the baby is a boy or a girl. Whether this is one of the old wives tales or not, no scientific data exists to verify the claim.

Can Pregnancy Line or Linea Nigra Go Away on its Own?

Just like so many other changes during pregnancy, linea nigra starts to fade gradually after the baby is born. Depending on various factors, the time it takes for the line to disappear completely varies from one woman to another 

The discolouration may take longer to disappear if you are breastfeeding since the hormone levels are still high. But since the levels reduce with weaning, so does the line. In some women, the line may not vanish entirely and is likely to reappear with subsequent pregnancies.

Should Linea Nigra Be Treated During Pregnancy?

It is not advisable to treat the discolouration during pregnancy. Reason being, there is no way to ascertain the kind of harm specific treatments can cause your unborn baby. However, if you want to manage it early, opt for natural remedies.

How to Get Rid of Linea Nigra or Pregnancy Line

As mentioned above, the pregnancy line can fade with time after the baby is born. Aggressive treatments and procedures are not recommended either during pregnancy or even post-partum. If patience is not one of your virtues, there are a few mild treatments that might help to get rid of or fade the line.

Topical skin Lighteners

These are defined based on their active ingredients. Common ones include hydroquinone, steroids, retinoids, azelaic acid and natural skin lightening creams

Topical lighteners work by mechanisms such as inhibiting melanin production and enhancing skin renewal process. Some formulations also use exfoliating ingredients to fade the hyperpigmentation. You can get most of the creams OTC from your local beauty or online stores. 

NOTE: Choose your skin lightening cream with caution, especially if you are breastfeeding. Some of the creams may contain harmful ingredients, while others are contraindicated. 

Home Remedies

These are natural skin lightening and exfoliating ingredients that are readily available at your home or your local store. They are generally safe for use on your skin. Some you can use when still pregnant while others are better used post-partum. 

These remedies may not altogether remove the linea nigra, but they will fade it or minimize the contrast.

Vitamin E Oil

Vitamin E oil moisturizes, nourishes and enhances healthy functioning of your skin. It lightens your skin by aiding it to regenerate new skin cells. Eventually, fast skin regeneration leads to lighter skin. Rub vitamin E oil on your belly every day and expect the pregnancy line yo fade in a few weeks.

Cocoa Butter

The butter has moisturizing, anti-oxidant and healing properties. While it is not a potent skin lightener, applying it regularly on your skin is believed to reduce the appearance of the pregnancy line.

Lemon Juice 

Lemon juice is a natural depigmenting agent. For sensitive skin, you can dilute the lemon juice with water. Even better, mix with milk or cucumber juice for more nourishment and moisturizing effects. Apply the mixture on your skin by massaging gently then rinse with plain water.[6]

Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV speeds up the process of skin regeneration. It helps to shed darkened skin faster, giving way for fresh and brighter skin. Use a cotton bud to apply vinegar along the line and wait for a few minutes before rinsing it off. If your skin cannot withstand the vinegar, dilute it with equal parts of water.

Turmeric Milk

Turmeric contains curcumin, an active ingredient that inhibits melanogenesis. Milk, on the other hand, nourishes your skin and contains lactic acid, a mild exfoliant. The combination is excellent for smoother and lighter skin. Make a paste, apply, and leave on for 10-20 minutes before rinsing off. Do this 2-3 times a week.[7]

Homemade Scrubs

These combine natural skin lighteners and exfoliants. The lighteners reduce melanin production while the exfoliants get rid of the darkened skin cells to give room for new and lighter ones. Examples of everyday homemade scrubs include lemon and sugar, and oatmeal and tomato scrubs. Use any to scrub your skin 1-3 times a week for best results.

Dry Brushing/ Wet Exfoliation

Dry brushing involves the use of a body brush to manually slough off dead darkened skin. This has nothing to do with melanin production, but it also improves circulation and lymphatic drainage. The effect of an efficient system is that your skin looks radiant. However, dry brushing can be too much for people with older, sensitive or dry skin. Hence the approach is usually recommended for younger and oilier skin types.

Wet exfoliation is more tolerable for all skin types and requires the use of materials such as washcloths, loofah sponges and exfoliating gloves. How well your skin turns out, however, will depend on how well your skin regenerates.[8]

Makeup to Conceal Pregnancy Line

If you are conscious about the line, you can conceal it with makeup. The measure is temporary as you wait for your treatment to work. While at it, use makeup ingredients that are gentle and safe for you and your baby.

Tips for Preventing/Managing Pregnancy Line

There is not much that you can do prevent the formation of linea nigra. However, you can avoid further darkening or make it less pronounced with the following tips:

  • Cover up your baby bump, and if you need to bare it, use sunscreen. Like any other form of hyperpigmentation, linea nigra gets darker with UV exposure.
  • Take folic acid supplements religiously. While these are usually for the healthy development of the foetus, deficiency also causes darkening of the skin. 
  • Eat plenty of folate-rich foods such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and papaya.

Conclusion

Linea nigra or pregnancy line affects up to 75% of pregnant women and a few other women with conditions that cause hormonal imbalances. For starters, there is nothing much you can do to prevent its occurrence. While the line eventually fades in most women and at different times, there are topical and homemade treatments to get rid of the line.

Mind the treatments for your safety and that of your child- whether unborn or breastfeeding. Makeup can also help conceal the pregnancy line. Lastly, protection from UV is a critical factor in both the treatment and the management of the linea nigra. If you don't mind the line though, you can just let it be a tell-tale of the new life that was once growing inside of you.

About:

sonia knight

Sonia Knight is the founder of be:skinformed.

Apart from having her own experience with hyperpigmentation, Sonia has gained vast knowledge in the dermatology field. For more info on this, check out our about us page.

Reso​urces

1 Pregnancy Line – Linea Nigra, American Pregnancy Association

2 Linea Alba, Medical Dictionary

3 10 Ways Pregnancy Changes your Skin, Everyday Health

4 Addison's Disease, Mayo Clinic

5 Cutaneous Manifestations of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Cross-Sectional Clinical Study, Indian Dermatology Online Journal

6 The Hunt for Natural Skin Whitening Agents, International Journal of Molecular Sciences

7 Amazing Turmeric Benefits for Skin, Skincare for beautiful Skin

8 Dry Brushing Vs. Exfoliating, Leaf tv

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