The Linea Alba in Pregnancy: What Is It and Why Does It Appear?

The linea alba is always on the belly, but it's too light to see with the naked eye. Find out what it is and why it appears during pregnancy.
The Linea Alba in Pregnancy: What Is It and Why Does It Appear?

Written by Daniela Andarcia

Last update: 22 April, 2023

The linea alba has always been on your belly, but it’s too light to notice with the naked eye. The situation changes when you get pregnant and enter the sixth month. This is because, during pregnancy, the ovaries begin to generate large amounts of hormones in order to help the development of the baby.

However, this isn’t all. Hormones are also related to skin pigmentation that highlights specific areas of the body during pregnancy.

What causes the darkening of the linea alba?

Excess melanin or hyperpigmentation in the skin during pregnancy is generated by estrogen and progesterone. Both hormones are produced in large amounts by the ovaries and the placenta. These help everything to run more safely for the baby.

However, one of the effects on mothers, who are mostly brown-skinned, is to alter the normal appearance of the skin by darkening the linea alba, areolas, old scars, and the upper part of the lip. It can also stain parts of the face, a condition known as melasma.

Since melanocyte-stimulating hormones reach their highest peaks from the fifth month of pregnancy onwards, exposure to sunlight during the summer increases the likelihood of brown spots appearing in some areas of your epidermis.

Hands on the belly of a pregnant woman.
The linea alba is natural and its pigmentation change responds to hormonal variations.

How to treat the linea alba during pregnancy?

It’s best not to medically treat the darkening of the linea alba during pregnancy or lactation, as this could be counterproductive for the baby. However, the application of sunscreen with a high percentage, as well as the use of hats during sun exposure help to reduce hyperpigmentation.

Similarly, avoid exposing yourself during the hours when the sun becomes hot. At the same time, eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and grains with folic acid. Vitamins recommended by your obstetrician may combat the coloration of the linea alba, as a deficiency of B vitamins is thought to be related to it.

When will it take its natural color?

In most women, the brown color of the linea alba fades after pregnancy. This is because, during the postpartum period, the hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone return to their normal state.

The same happens with the areolas, the face, and other affected areas. In the event that this isn’t your case, go to a skin specialist and discuss the situation. They’ll recommend treatment, such as specific whitening creams for each skin type.

Can darkening be avoided?

There’s no medical study that supports this premise, so measures are recommended to try to prevent or minimize the appearance of this brown line. You can wear clothing that covers the area and sunscreen when you expose the belly, in addition to eating foods rich in folic acid.

On the other hand, if you dislike the appearance of this line, consider the use of some foundation or makeup that allows you to hide it, if necessary. But remember that the notoriety of the linea alba is part of this beautiful stage of your life.

Myths behind the linea alba

Although the reasons for the darkening of the linea alba are justified by science, as a product of high levels of melanin (responsible for skin pigmentation and protection from ultraviolet rays), there are those who seek a mythical origin.

For example, in the past, it was said that the dark color of the line served as a guide for the baby, so it could find the routes to the chest in order to feed, as inside the womb it couldn’t see clearly. Others say that it’s the path of the baby at birth.

Likewise, there’s another theory related to the sex of the baby. In this way, if the linea alba crosses above the navel, at the level of the ribs, you’d be expecting a boy. On the other hand, if the line only reaches the level of the navel, you’d be the mother of a girl. Of course, this isn’t supported by research and is part of the popular imagination.

Whitening creams in pregnancy.
The use of whitening creams can be prescribed during pregnancy.

What to remember about the linea alba?

The truth is that the linea alba isn’t a sign that something’s wrong with your pregnancy. On the contrary, it’s an indication that your hormones were activated to help the development of the baby in the womb.

Keep in mind that some women, in addition to experiencing a darkening of the linea alba, also have hair growth in that area or around the navel. If you want to get rid of it, best to do so with wax, as the use of laser or other similar techniques can cause harm to the baby.

  • Massinde, A., Ntubika, S., & Magoma, M. (2011). Extensive hyperpigmentation during pregnancy: a case report. Journal of medical case reports, 5, 464.
  • George, A. O., Shittu, O. B., Enwerem, E., Wachtel, M., & Kuti, O. (2005). The incidence of lower mid-trunk hyperpigmentation (linea nigra) is affected by sex hormone levels. Journal of the National Medical Association, 97(5), 685–688.
  • Guerra, Javier Miguel Martín, et al. “Hiperpigmentación cutánea por deficiencia de folatos.” Medicina Clínica Práctica 2.2 (2019): 30.
  • González Otero, Francisco. “Manejo dermatológico.” Revista de Obstetricia y Ginecología de Venezuela 76 (2016): S97-S103.

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