Linea nigra, a dark vertical line that appears in the middle of the belly is one of many pregnancy-related skin changes you may experience during your pregnancy. It is completely harmless and does not signal any problems with your health nor your pregnancy and there is no need to be concerned about it because your baby is doing just fine. Nevertheless, it cannot hurt to know what that dark line in the middle of you belly means, what causes it and what can you do about it.
Although linea nigra is associated with pregnancy-related skin changes, a pale line running from your belly button to the pubic area is there all the time but most women do not even notice it before they are pregnant. Its Latin name (i.e. black line) suggests that it is black but the line is usually light to dark brown and about a half inch wide. This line tends to be more noticeable in women with a darker skin tone and typically appears in the second trimester of pregnancy. It is believed to be caused by pregnancy hormones which increase the production of melanin, a substance that determines the color of your skin. Next to this dark line on your belly, you may also notice darkening of your skin elsewhere including your nipples and genital area.
Why some women develop a dark line in the middle of their belly and the others do not is not completely understood but health experts agree that it is not a cause of concern. There are some studies, however, which claim that the line in the middle of your belly could signal deficiency of folic acid which is associated with increased risk of neural tube defect. However, if you eat a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet, and take your prenatal vitamins there is no need to be concerned about folic acid deficiency. In addition, the line is also developed by women who are getting the recommended daily amounts of folic acid.
There are no sure ways to prevent linea nigra nor to make it less noticeable while pregnant. It usually fades after delivery but in some women it never completely goes away. If you develop this dark line in the middle of your belly, continue with healthy pregnancy diet and make sure that you take your prenatal vitamins to prevent folic acid deficiency. Avoid exposing your belly to the sun because it will make the line even more noticeable. Also, avoid direct sunlight exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when UV radiation is most intense and always use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or cover your belly when exposed to direct sunlight.
You may come across a tale that connects the line in the middle of your belly with your baby’s gender. The tale goes that the line that runs to the belly button indicates that you are carrying a girl and that the line extending above your belly button is a sign that you are carrying a boy. However, this method of gender prediction is just as unreliable as other so-called foolproof methods. If you would like to know what gender your baby will be, ask your doctor when he or she will be performing an ultrasound.