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What Is the Dark Pregnant Belly Line?

What Is the Dark Pregnant Belly Line?

That dark, vertical line on your belly is called the linea nigra—and it's a totally normal part of pregnancy.

What is the dark line on my pregnant belly?

One of the joys of being pregnant is watching your belly grow… and grow and grow! But wait—what's that long, vertical dark pregnancy line on your stomach, stretching from your navel down to your pelvis?[1] It's called the linea nigra (pronounced "LIN-ee-UH NYE-gra"), which means "black line" in Latin. Though not all pregnant women develop a linea nigra, many do near the start of the second trimester. Fortunately, the linea nigra poses no harm to mom or baby, so don't worry if you spot it. 

While you may notice the linea nigra sometime in the second or third trimester, you've actually had this line of tissue all along. Prior to pregnancy, a fainter and lighter version of it exists where the left and right sides of your abdominal muscles meet; it's called the linea alba, or "white line." Fun fact: Men have this line, too. 

Why is my belly line getting darker?

So what causes this belly line to get darker during pregnancy? In a word: hormones.[2] As your body creates more estrogen and progesterone to help your baby grow, these hormones cause your skin to produce more melanin—the pigment that gives skin its color.[3] That's what makes the line darken, and you may notice your nipples or the skin on your face growing darker, too. 

Does the pregnancy belly line mean anything about my baby?

Some people say that the length of the linea nigra is a clue to your baby's sex—that a longer line means it's a boy, while a shorter line means it's a girl. As fun as it can be to play guessing games, it's a myth! The length or color of the linea nigra has nothing to do with a baby's sex, so you'll just have to wait. 

Remember, the linea nigra is a normal part of pregnancy, so there's no need to seek medical treatment for it. There's also no way to prevent it from developing, though protecting your skin from the sun will minimize the line's intensity. Steer clear of topical creams meant to fade dark spots; bleach creams and certain acids aren't safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Besides, for most people, the line will most likely fade in the months after your baby is born[4]—so enjoy every bit of your growing belly in the meantime.

Your body is going through big changes. Find out what to do about swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy.

1 Physiological changes in the skin during pregnancy
2 Physiological changes in the skin during pregnancy
3 The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels
4 The clinical study of linea nigra in pregnancy

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