A woman’s body undergoes numerous changes during pregnancy, some of them strange and unexplainable. While some changes brought on by the hormones of pregnancy work to your advantage, such as glowing skin and thick, luscious hair, others may leave you feeling less than beautiful. Perhaps one of the strangest signs of pregnancy is the linea negra, or linea nigra. Meaning “black line” in Spanish, this mark of pregnancy manifests itself as a light to dark brown line running from the belly button down to the pubic bone. Most pregnant women will notice the first signs of the linea negra around the second trimester of their pregnancy.
While no one knows if there is any purpose behind the linea negra, it is caused by hyperpigmentation of the skin, which is caused by hormones that prompt the pregnant body to produce excess melanin. Melanin is what gives skin color, and many pregnant women may notice that they may experience darker nipples, freckles and moles as a result. They may even experience chloasma, often called the “mask of pregnancy.” This results in a darkening of the skin on the face, typically around the eyes and forehead.
Women with darker skin typically have a darker linea negra, though fair skin does not preclude developing a dark line. Some women may have what is called a linea alba, or a lighter, pale line. Researchers believe that there may be a link to intake of folic acid — the more the mother has taken, the fainter the line may be. The linea negra has also been tied to insulin levels, though neither of these connections has been conclusively proven.
Some people believe that the linea negra foretells the gender of their baby, thanks to centuries of old wives’ tales. The story goes that a linea negra that runs up, past the belly button, to the lower part of the sternum means that you will have a boy, and a linea negra that stops at the belly button means you’re having a girl.
The good news is that the vast majority of linea negras will fade and disappear within a few months after the pregnancy, although some women report that they can still see a faint line for months to years afterwards. Other women may experience linea negras that are different shades with each subsequent pregnancy. If your linea negra doesn’t fade, you can always celebrate it as a badge of motherhood!