You’ve probably noticed the pale, vertical line that starts at your belly button and runs down your abdomen. It’s called a linea alba. Almost all women have a linea alba, but pregnant women see a change in the color around the second trimester, after which the line is called the linea negra.
When you’re pregnant your body begins to produce extra melanin. Melanin is a pigment that results in darker skin. The increase of melanin is caused by the increased production of estrogen, which eventually causes hyper-pigmentation. The reason this line only appears down the center of the abdomen is still unknown, but it’s the same process that causes your clitoris and areolas to darken.
Old wives’ tales state that if the line ends at the belly button the woman is having a girl, but if the line continues to the bottom of the rib cage, the woman will be having a boy. Another wives’ tale claims that only women who bear boys have this line. Of course these are just myths, and it’s important to know that the linea negra is in no way harmful to your baby or you. It’s a sign that your pregnancy hormones are working regularly and efficiently.
Will the Linea Negra go Away?
Eventually yes, it will go away, usually after birth, but it disappears very slowly, especially while you are breastfeeding. Things such as sun exposure can cause it to darken again, reversing any progress you may have made. Lighter-skinned women do not see as much of a pigment change as darker-skinned women; darker-skinned people in general are known to be more susceptible to hyper-pigmentation. For some women, the linea negra may never go away after their first pregnancy.
What Causes Linea Negra?
Linea negra occurs in pregnant women due to hormone changes, more specifically the increase of estrogen, which causes an increase in pigment melanin. Why it happens only on the abdomen is still unclear.
Can I Prevent Linea Negra?
Unfortunately, you cannot prevent this natural phenomenon from occurring, although you can do things to cover it up if it bothers you that much. Cosmetic make-up, such as base, can do the trick for a couple of hours, but it will eventually wipe off and could possibly damage your clothing. Folic acid is another great way to control the pigment change in your skin. It’s found in many foods, including whole wheat, asparagus, beans, spinach, and orange juice, and is said to reduce the linea negra significantly, although not completely. Again, sun exposure does not help your cause. Do your best to avoid the sun, especially on your abdomen. Sunscreen may help, but the sun will still do a little damage.
When Should I go to the Doctor?
You should always talk to your doctor whenever you have concerns about your pregnancy, but linea negra is not harmful to you or your baby, so treatment is unnecessary. The best cure for linea negra is a healthy diet and time. The line will probably begin to fade away after the birth of your baby.