What That Line On Your Stomach Is – Linea Alba, Linea Nigra

That Line On My Stomach

I’ve always had this skinny tan line on my stomach, running from my navel  down to just where the elastic band of my underwear would start. I used to think it was from years of wearing panty hose from the time I was a toddler.

It never made me feel self-conscious. It’s not very dark, and so I’ve always felt comfortable wearing bikinis. No one has ever said anything abut it to me either, not even a doctor.

On closer inspection, my husband early in our relationship asked about it. He had never seen that on anyone before and so he wondered if I had had surgery when I was a baby or something, thinking maybe it was an incision scar. He was surprised when I told him I’ve never had surgery on my abdomen; the only sugery I’ve ever had was extraction of my wisdom teeth.

Fast forward to today and I am thirty-six weeks pregnant and the skinny tan line on my stomach is a little more stretched out, but not darker. However, in all the learning I’ve done about being pregnant I noticed a lot of photos of women’s bellies with prominent dark brown lines running up and down their baby bumps and I finally found out what that line on my stomach is actually called!

Linea Alba, Linea Nigra

No that’s not alba as in Jessica Alba, linea alba as in “white line” in Latin. This vertical line running down the middle of our stomach is a fibrous structure found in humans and other vertebrates. It is formed by the fusion of the aponeuroses of the abdominal muscles, separating the left and right rectus abdominis muscles. We all have it but during pregnancy, due to hormone changes that effect melanin-forming cells called melanocytes, the line becomes visible and brown on all women. The dark version of the line is called linea nigra for that exact reason.

The line is not usually visible on none-pregnant people, but I learned that sun exposure can make the line more prominent. So in my case, all those years of maybe not putting enough sun screen on my belly might have caused my line to show.

Other reasons why a linea nigra could show up on your belly without being pregnant:

  • Taking birth control
  • Adrenal Insufficiency or failure
  • Hormone imbalance
  • If you are very slim or do a lot of abdomenal work to achieve a six-pack
  • If you are of Asian, African, Indian and Hispanic descent

It’s nothing serious to worry about, it’s purely a cosmetic issue and rarely pathological. But, it can be caused by other condions such as Addison’s disease and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

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