Linea Nigra (Pregnancy Line) Causes and Treatments

Written by Laura Buford, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on June 3, 2022 No Comments

linea nigra

Linea nigra is a vertical, dark line on the belly that appears during pregnancy. It typically runs from the navel to the pubic area. While this common skin condition is not harmful to mother or the baby, some expecting mothers are understandably troubled by its development. Fortunately, linea nigra is a natural part of most women’s pregnancy and the condition typically resolves on its own without the need for treatment.

If you are expecting (or considering becoming pregnant) here is everything you need to know about linea nigra:

What is Linea Nigra?

Linea nigra is a dark, vertical line on the belly which appears during pregnancy. The line is usually about 1 centimeter wide and runs from the navel toward the pubic area. In some cases, linea nigra extends above the navel towards the breasts.

Latin for ‘black line,’ linea nigra is the result of hyperpigmentation, in which some skin cells produce more melanin than normal. Linea nigra is not harmful at all, although some women find it cosmetically unappealing. After you give birth, this pregnancy line will most likely fade away on its own.

Linea Nigra example
An example of Linea Nigra

How Common is Linea Nigra?

During pregnancy, more than 90% of women report changes to their skin. Hyperpigmentation is among the most common of these changes. Nearly 75% of women will experience areas of skin darkening while they are pregnant. Linea nigra is just one type of hyperpigmentation.

Common Types of Hyperpigmentation During Pregnancy

  • Linea Nigra: A dark, vertical line on the belly
  • Melasma: Patches of dark skin on the face
  • Darkening of birthmarks, moles and freckles
  • Darkening of hyperpigmented areas such as nipples, areolae and labia

What Causes Linea Nigra?

Linea alba, or ‘white line’ is common to everyone, but hardly noticeable. This line extends vertically from the breast plate down through the navel toward the pubic area. During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause skin cells in this area to darken, hence the linea nigra.

During pregnancy, an increase in hormones (specifically melanocyte-stimulating hormones, progesterone, and estrogen) cause some skin cells to produce extra melanin, or pigment. After you give birth, these hormonal levels will return to normal, and your linea nigra will slowly fade.

Linea nigra most often appears during the second trimester of pregnancy and often occurs alongside other types of hyperpigmentation, such as melasma or the darkening of areas that are already pigmented, like the nipples, areola and labia.

Who is Most Likely to Develop Linea Nigra?

You’re more likely to develop linea nigra if you already have dark skin. Women with light skin may experience a lighter colored linea nigra because they have less pigment in their skin to begin with.

Linea nigra can be more prevalent in those who spend time in the sun, have certain pre-existing conditions such as hyperthyroidism, or have a genetic predisposition to hyperpigmentation.

Factors that Increase Risk of Linea Nigra

  • Genetics
  • Dark skin
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Certain medications
  • Thyroid disease

Although it’s much less common, linea nigra can occur in men or women who are not pregnant due to hormonal changes. In this case, it’s best to see a doctor for a diagnosis of the underlying causes.

Can Linea Nigra Be Prevented?

There is no way to prevent linea nigra, although protecting your belly from sun exposure can keep the condition from worsening. It’s important to note that the use of skin lightening creams, especially those that contain hydroquinone, is not recommended during pregnancy.

Linea Nigra Treatment Options

Dermatologists and doctors recommend not treating linea nigra during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Skin lightening creams often contain hydroquinone, which has not been proven safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

After pregnancy, linea nigra will resolve on its own, although it can take several months. The following methods may help linea nigra fade sooner.

  • Lightening creams or bleaches (only if not breastfeeding)
  • Protecting the belly from excess sun exposure
  • Ingesting folic acid from dark leafy greens and fortified whole wheat breads

This common skin condition is nothing to worry about, and does go away over time once your hormones have returned to pre-pregnancy levels.

Laura Buford, MD

Laura Buford, MD attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, where she earned a Doctor of Medicine with Special Distinction. Dr. Buford is active in various medical organizations including the American Academy of Dermatology, the Texas Medical Association, and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. Her professional interests include adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer prevention and treatment, and cosmetic dermatology.

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