What Is the Dark Line on My Pregnant Belly?

Linea Nigra in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman pointing to line on her belly

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The dark line on your pregnant belly is the linea nigra, sometimes called the pregnancy line. About 80% of pregnant women will see the linea nigra form during pregnancy, usually after the first trimester. It is not unique to pregnancy. It can form when you are not pregnant, even in men.

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How Will Pregnancy Change My Body?

Characteristics of the Linea Nigra

The linea nigra  typically runs from your pubic bone to the top of your umbilicus (belly button), but it can extend all the way to your sternum. It is usually about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide. You may see that it gets lighter as it goes up. It may also be darker or lighter than you see on other pregnant women. These variations seem to be normal and not a concern.

The line often shows up around the fifth month of pregnancy. Sometimes it seems to appear suddenly. One mother noted that it seemed to appear one day when she got out of the shower and she didn't know what to make of it. The pregnancy line will often darken through your pregnancy.

What Causes the Linea Nigra During Pregnancy?

This line is probably caused by hormones in your body that change during pregnancy, although the exact cause is unknown. The placenta may release a hormone that stimulates melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin to pigment your skin or give you a suntan. You may notice that your nipples darken during pregnancy, which could be due to this factor.

One old wives' tale says that you only develop a pregnancy line when you are pregnant with a boy. That is only a myth. Women pregnant with girls also develop a pregnancy line.

Whether or not you have a linea nigra is not a way to determine whether someone is pregnant. Although more common in pregnant women, it is also seen in a significant percentage of girls, boys, men, and women who are not pregnant.

What is the Treatment for Linea Nigra?

Some women are disturbed by how the pregnancy line looks. However, there isn't really anything that you can or should do to make it go away, short of giving birth. Doctors warn against using medications or lotions on it. Bleaching the skin is harmful and will not remove the line. If you are really concerned, please talk to your doctor or midwife. It's best not to irritate your skin.

When Does the Linea Nigra Go Away?

The line will fade after you give birth. That vast majority of women will see it fade in the first months postpartum as hormone levels return to a pre-pregnant state. The timing varies slightly from woman to woman. Most women aren't even paying attention to it and simply notice at some point that it is no longer there.

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  1. Hassan I, Bashir S, Taing S. A clinical study of the skin changes in pregnancy in kashmir valley of north India: a hospital based study. Indian J Dermatol. 2015;60(1):28–32. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.147782

  2. American Pregnancy Association. Pregnancy Line—Linea Nigra.