A woman’s body undergoes several significant changes during pregnancy. Her uterus expands and her blood volume and respiratory rate increase to support the growing child. Hormones fluctuate and lead to stronger, thicker hair and nails and, along with increased blood flow, give that attractive, highly coveted pregnancy glow. But not all changes are anticipated, or welcome, for that matter.
Around the fifth month of pregnancy, some women are shocked to discover that a dark vertical line is forming from their navel to their pubic bone, known as linea nigra. They may glance at this darkening line with dismay and wonder to themselves: When does linea nigra go away? Fortunately, for most, it disappears on its own with time.
What is Linea Nigrea?
Linea nigra means “black line;” the good news is that it is not usually black, but rather a varying shade of brown. The line itself is present even before becoming pregnant, but it is too light to see.
When it is this lighter color, it is called the linea alba, or “white line.” It runs in a vertical direction along the stomach, and as it darkens during pregnancy, the colored band measures between a quarter and a half-an-inch thick.
It generally extends from the belly button to the pubic area, though some women develop a darkened line that travels as far up as to their ribcage, or even up between the breasts. Shade also varies and may be barely discernible on some stomachs to quite apparent on others.
Once linea nigra develops, darkening continues throughout the rest of pregnancy until after birth.
What Causes Linea Nigrea?
Many believe that a hormone produced by the growing placenta causes the darkening of the linea alba.
This hormone stimulates melanocytes to make more melanin, or skin pigment. This, in turn, not only creates darkened skin patches on the face and body, more noticeable freckles or moles, and darkened areolas, but is also responsible for linea nigra.
Darker-skinned individuals are much more likely to develop it than those with lighter skin.
Ultraviolet light may cause yet more pigmentation to form and darken the area further. Women concerned with this happening should take the precaution to avoid sun exposure or wear sunscreen while outdoors.
There is also some evidence that linea nigra is linked to lower consumption of folic acid. Taking the nutrient in supplement form or including it in sufficient quantities within the diet may minimize the color of the line, should it form.
Ultimately, the appearance of linea nigra is considered unpreventable. As many as three-quarters of pregnant women have some form of hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, though the type and extent vary from person to person.
It is probable that women with linea nigra in one pregnancy will go on to have it again in subsequent pregnancies. In this case, it often fades between each pregnancy to reappear when pregnant again.
One thing that’s for sure is that it is entirely normal and will have no adverse effects on either a mother or her baby.
When Does Linea Nigra go Away?
Just as the line darkens progressively during pregnancy, it also typically fades gradually after birth. There is no set timeframe for this, as it varies from individual to individual, but it does not usually take longer than a few months postpartum. Unfortunately, in some women, it may not go away and remain indefinitely.
Those who wish to make it fade more quickly can schedule a visit with a dermatologist and request bleaching creams. These are often not recommended during pregnancy or when breastfeeding if they contain an ingredient known as hydroquinone.
Creams using retinol are another option for lightening the skin, as is lemon juice for an all-natural alternative. However, there is debate as to the effectiveness of lemon juice, and it may also irritate due to its acidity.
Concealing makeup can work quite well to disguise the presence of linea nigra without the potential negative effects of these other options.
Consult Your Physician
Pregnancy is a time of change, both for the growing baby and the mother. Her body must increase its supplies of blood and oxygen, adjust as it rapidly expands in size, and successfully handle continually changing levels of hormones. Side-effects of these hormones may include hyperpigmentation on the body, including the formation of linea nigra on the stomach, a vertical line that darkens as birth nears.
The good news is it only runs skin-deep and poses no threat to the mother or the child. It also generally fades on its own after a baby is born, but there are various options available to those who wish to speed up this process.
As always, women should consult their doctor when still pregnant or nursing before they apply any new products for this purpose.