Did you wake up one morning only to look down at your pregnant belly and go "what's that"? If so you may have developed what is known as linea nigra. Linea nigra is a symptom of pregnancy that not all women develop, but those that do are often shocked by it. There is nothing to worry about if you do or don't develop linea nigra. Linea nigra has absolutely nothing to do with your health or the health of your baby.
Linea nigra is a dark vertical line that can appear between the belly button and the pubic bone of pregnant women, and is caused by pregnancy hormones. Roughly three quarters of pregnant women develop linea nigra at some point during their pregnancy. Linea nigra typically appears sometime during the second trimester although some women do not develop it until their pregnancy is nearly over. Linea nigra is not a pregnancy complication or a warning sign that anything is wrong.
Linea nigra is caused by an increase in hormones that in turn stimulate melanocytes. Melanocytes are specialized cells that are responsible for your body’s production of melanin. Melanin is what causes the pigmentation of your skin. When your skin turns darker in the summer time or if you have freckles they are both caused by melanin. Tanning can cause an increase in melanin production and pregnancy hormones can too. If you plan to be in the sun for any length of time you should apply sunscreen to any exposed skin with a minimum of SPF 15.
Melanocyte production is increased in pregnant women in order to darken their areolae. The darkening of the areolae is so that they become more visible for the baby to help make breast feeding easier. When babies are first born their vision still has quite a way to develop so darkening mom’s areolae is nature’s way of marking their food source for them. Choloasma or darkened patches of skin on the face are also caused by increased melanocyte production, but linea nigra and freckles are by far the most common side effect of this increase.
Linea nigra is the Latin word for black line although there are many shades that the linea nigra line may be. Fair skinned women are less likely to develop the line at all because their melanin production is naturally lower than darker skinned women. If a light skinned woman does develop linea nigra it is often very noticeable because of her fair skin. Women with fair skin who develop linea nigra can also expect to see some new freckles as well. Women with naturally darker skin tones may also have a darker linea nigra which may take a little while longer to fade after birth.
There is no treatment for linea nigra and it usually fades within a few months after delivery. You should avoid excessive sun exposure if you are concerned about the darkness of your linea nigra or you want it to fade more quickly. Sun exposure to your belly will cause the line to darken considerably. Use sunscreen anytime that you will be in the sun with your belly exposed. Although the line will fade it may never completely go away and sun exposure can make it darken again regardless of whether or not you are pregnant.
There is some recent evidence that skin discoloration during pregnancy can be related to a folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is very important for the development of a healthy baby so increasing folic acid in your diet is a good idea. Most pre-natal vitamins contain folic acid, but you can also increase your daily intake by eating certain foods. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are full of folic acid and it can also be found in oranges and whole grains.
There is even an old wives' tale about linea nigra. Supposedly if you develop linea nigra and the line goes from your belly button to your pubic bone it's a girl. If you get linea nigra and it runs from the bottom of your rib cage to your pubic bone it's a boy. However, studies have been done to see if there is any truth to this tale.
The linea nigra will fade after pregnancy, but for some women it can take up to a year after giving birth before it becomes less noticeable. Some women like their linea nigra because it reminds them of their pregnancy, and others just want it to go away. If you are one of the women who just want it to fade there are a few things that you can try. Apply cocoa butter to your belly daily during and after your pregnancy. Not only can this help reduce the appearance of linea nigra it can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks as well. Unrefined cocoa butter is said to be more effective than refined cocoa butter and can be found in most natural health food stores.
Breaking open a vitamin E capsule and rubbing the oil on your belly can also be effective at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and linea nigra. You can also take vitamin E capsules orally to help improve the appearance of your skin. You can also try rubbing extrapone nutgrass extract on your linea nigra and stretch marks. Extrapone nutgrass extract is a natural compound that can be found at the natural health food store. This extract reacts naturally with melanin which is the substance that causes the discoloration of linea nigra.
Linea nigra is simply a natural part of pregnancy for some women. Most women who develop linea nigra are not bothered by it until after they give birth, and the only reason it bothers them then is because they want to look the way they did prior to their pregnancy. Never fear though, the line will fade gradually overtime. If you find that your linea nigra is unappealing to you then increase your folic acid intake, limit sun exposure, and use cocoa butter, vitamin E capsules, or extrapone nutgrass on your belly to help fade your linea nigra faster.
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