Before ultrasounds were a thing, people came up with all sorts of ways to tell whether a pregnant person carried a boy or girl. One of these methods even involved looking at the skin pigmentation changes often associated with pregnancy. So does a dark neck during pregnancy mean you're having a boy or a girl? There's some interesting folklore associated with the mask of pregnancy, although research might tell a different story.
Pregnant women can develop patches of pigmentation around their face and neck. “If you develop dark splotches on your face, you could have melasma or the mask of pregnancy. This skin condition affects up to half of the pregnant women and is also responsible for linea nigra, a dark line that runs down the belly,” Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a Boston Area board-certified dermatopathologist and mother of two young children, tells Romper. Baby Center explained that it’s simply the result of the body producing more melanin than usual. This skin change is one of the perfectly normal bodily changes associated with pregnancy, even if it isn't discussed all that often.
So can someone read these marks like tea leaves and peer into the baby's future? Well, it depends on what you believe, because the results are pretty mixed. For instance, some folks believe the appearance of dark skin on the face and neck means the person is having a boy, as noted in Baby Gaga. And this isn't the only place I found that information. In one family, a mother-to-be who got dark circles on her neck was said to be carrying a boy, as noted in Parents. Basically, the mask of pregnancy is another way to informally guess the sex of a kid before birth. Boys seem to be most commonly associated with chloasma, at least according to a very unscientific scan of popular baby boards and blogs. But is there any research to back up this belief?
Well, no. “There is no correlation between melasma or any skin changes and the sex of the baby,” as Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB/GYN at Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Khan, and Zertuche, tells Romper. Jamila Vernon, media relations manager of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, confirms this in an email to Romper. “We have no data that suggests that a dark neck during pregnancy indicates whether a fetus will be born male or female,” she says.
“There is so much folklore associated with pregnant women and people trying to determine the sex of a child,” says Dr. Frieling. “None of these are backed by science. Melasma on the neck does not indicate the sex of the baby. These markings are simply the result of the body producing more melanin than normal.” It’s the same hormone responsible for tanning, in fact.
Really, experts suggest taking a “wait and see” approach to learning your child’s sex. “Ultrasound is the most accurate way to determine the sex of the baby,” Dr. Szabo explains, “but even ultrasounds can be wrong a very small percentage of the time, so the best way is to look after the baby is born!”
Folkloric beliefs about the mask of pregnancy don't offer any scientific guarantees. On the other hand, it can be fun to indulge in some of these old wives' tales, and there's no real harm in them. So if a dear relative or friend claims to know what you're having just by looking at the pigmentation on your neck, well, that's OK. Whether it's revealed through an ultrasound or the birth itself, everyone will know the sex of the baby soon enough.
Edit note: This post was originally published on Aug. 24, 2018. It was updated on Sep. 10, 2019.