What does linea nigra look like?
Linea nigra tends to form during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. It starts off around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy as a very fine line and then slowly expands and becomes darker. As the abdomen enlarges the width and intensity of linea nigra also expands.
What causes linea nigra?
Linea nigra might always have been present; it's just that until the influence of melanocyte- stimulating hormones came into play, it wasn’t nearly as visible. Linea alba (“white line”) is the term for the line which changes into linea nigra because of becoming darker.
As the abdominal muscles stretch and separate, linea nigra tends to form. The line created is certainly more prominent in some women than others. It marks the midway point between the left and right abdominal muscles. These abdominal muscles need to separate to allow the pregnant abdomen to grow. Some people believe it is the relative thinness of the skin which is the cause.
The hormonal effect of increased melanin production is also responsible for many other skin changes during pregnancy. Examples include nipples, moles, birthmarks, and freckles appearing darker. Even scar tissue can begin to appear darker and more obvious than before.
Chloasma, otherwise known as the mask of pregnancy or butterfly mask, happens across the face and cheekbones. It is also caused by this rise in melanocyte stimulating hormone.
Will linea nigra harm me or my baby?
Linea nigra is restricted to external skin cells and does not cause a discoloration or darkening of the uterus or the baby. It is quite literally only skin-deep.
What can I do to prevent linea nigra?
Fair-skinned women are not as prone to developing it, just as they are less likely to tan because of sun exposure. We cannot change the color of our skin, or the changes which occur because of pregnancy hormones.
Some women find that if their skin is exposed to the sun, it becomes more noticeable. However, if their skin tends to tan, the surrounding skin becomes darker as well.
What treatment is recommended for linea nigra?
For those women who are having their first baby, the appearance of linea nigra can come as quite a shock. It can just about disappear after pregnancy but emerge again with subsequent pregnancies.
Can I bleach my skin?
If you are interested in trying a skin care product which is designed to lighten skin, then speak with your provider and or a pharmacist about what they recommend and what has been assessed as being safe to use. Some creams contain topical retinol which, in the correct concentration, can deliver lightening effects.
A natural alternative may be lemon juice. However, its effects are variable and can cause skin irritation and burning if not diluted with water.
Some women like to rub emollient creams or oils into their tummy, believing this will help reduce the likelihood of it developing. There is no evidence to support this theory. Using creams and lotions on the abdomen can help pregnant women believe that they are making an effort, no matter how negligible the benefits. There is no harm in doing this.
What your linea nigra is telling you
Just remember that the statistics of having either a boy or a girl are around 50%. The odds are high that your interpretation will be right whichever way you look at your linea nigra.
The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.