Are you puzzled by the birthmark on your baby’s skin? Don’t worry! Our comprehensive guide is here to decode baby birthmarks and provide answers to concerned parents.
Many baby birthmarks make some mums and dads slightly anxious. To make things more complicated, many birthmarks come in various colours, shapes and sizes.
We’re here to ease some of those worries and take you through various birthmarks that newborns may sport. But first…
What is a birthmark?
A birthmark is a patch or mark on the skin that is usually seen at birth but sometime develops soon after birth. According to John Hopkins Medicine, it can be flat or raised and is made up of abnormal pigment cells or blood vessels.
There are two types of birthmarks:
Pigmented birthmarks are ‘coloured’ by an excess of pigment in that particular part of the skin. They are usually dark in colour, like a mole or ‘beauty spot’.
Vascular birthmarks: These are caused by a small clump of blood vessels bunching together under the skin, often giving the ‘mark’ a pinkish or reddish hue. Before we take you through the different types of common birthmarks in babies, please note that while the majority of birthmarks present at birth are harmless, there are times when they should be examined by a doctor, explain experts at John Hopkins Medicine.
What causes birthmarks?
Birthmarks in babies can be caused by various factors. Some birthmarks, such as pigmented birthmarks, result from an overgrowth of pigment cells in the skin. These include cafe-au-lait spots and Mongolian spots.
Vascular birthmarks, on the other hand, are caused by abnormal blood vessels. They can appear as pink or red patches, such as strawberry hemangiomas or port-wine stains.
If your baby has a birthmark, it’s important to ask your doctor what it is and why it occurred before making any assumptions about its cause. The following factors may contribute to the development of a baby birthmark:
Birthmarks can run in families, so if you have one, your baby may also develop one. This does not necessarily mean that your child will inherit other genetic conditions associated with the same trait.
The hormones involved in pregnancy can also play a role in forming birthmarks on your newborn’s skin. These changes can happen weeks after conception or even later during pregnancy when hormone levels fluctuate drastically.
Also, during labour itself when these levels rise sharply again just before delivery. Any inflammation on mum’s part could trigger this reaction too!
Exposure to sunlight
Exposure to sunlight can also cause birthmarks, such as hemangiomas, which occur more often on faces than anywhere else.
Exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy may cause certain birthmarks in your baby. These chemicals include those found in paint thinners, pesticides and industrial solvents.
While most birthmarks are harmless and do not require treatment, it is always recommended to consult a paediatrician for a proper diagnosis and guidance.
The most common types of baby birthmarks
How does your baby’s birthmark look, and how does it affect his health and development? Get the information you need on our list:
1. Salmon patches/stork bites/angel kisses
Known by these three names, these are pink or purple birthmarks with uneven edges that are usually seen on a baby’s eyelids, forehead, upper lip or back of the neck (the story goes that this is where the stork ‘bit’ your baby!).
Salmon patches are widespread, appearing on up to 70 per cent of newborns and, according to John Hopkins Medicine, are formed by a concentration of small capillaries close to the skin’s surface.
They are most noticeable when the baby cries, or there is a change in the temperature. When these birthmarks appear on the forehead or eyelids (angel kisses), they generally fade away when the baby is around two years old. However, stork’s bites (on the back of the neck) may linger on into adulthood.
Parents, these birthmarks are harmless, meaning you have nothing to worry about if you see one on your baby’s skin. However, talk to your paediatrician if your baby’s birthmark is large or in an unusual area.
2. Cafe au lait spots
These milk-coffee-coloured flat birthmarks are oval and noticeable at birth or soon after.
While their colour may fade or become smaller in size as the child grows older, they generally don’t completely disappear. Exposure to the sun may cause these birthmarks to darken in colour.
Cafe au lait spots sometimes appear in multiples. According to Medical News Today, “people with more than four [cafe au lait spots] may have neurofibromatosis (a genetically-inherited disorder in which the nerve tissue grows neurofibromas (tumours) that may be harmless or may cause serious damage by pressing on the nerves and other tissues).”
Please seek a medical opinion without delay if you notice more than four of these birthmarks on your child.
3. Port-wine stains (nevus flameus)
These vascular birthmarks are present at birth and range from light pink to dark purple. While they can appear anywhere on the body, they are most commonly found on the face, head or neck.
Port-wine stains generally do not fade as the child grows older. Instead, sometimes grow darker in colour and more prominent in size. While they are usually flat against the skin at birth, they may become bumpy and raised over time.
The best way to treat these birthmarks is with a special laser (by a plastic surgery specialist) once the baby is older.
Check with your child’s paediatrician if the baby’s birthmark is located on certain parts of the head and face. Tests may be needed for a rare related health condition known as Sturge-Weber syndrome, which is associated with developmental delay or vision problems.
4. Mongolian spots
Also known as slate-grey nevus due to their characteristic dark grey colour, these birthmarks are more typically found in babies of Asian and black heritage.
You’ll notice them usually on your baby’s bottom or lower back. They are caused by an excess of pigmentation and usually fade away when the child is around three to four years old. Mongolian spots are considered to be harmless.
For a detailed article on this type of birthmark, please click this link.
The American Academy of Dermatology explains two types of hemangioma: one that appears on the skin’s surface and one that lies below the skin. The former is known as strawberry hemangiomas due to their bright red colour and shape, while the latter (deep hemangiomas) are bluish-purple and bulge out of the skin, appearing after the baby is born.
While both types of hemangiomas may grow quite rapidly in a baby’s first year causing parents to alarm, they usually start to shrink after that. When the child is 10 years old, these birthmarks are usually flat, although they may leave behind a faint mark.
There’s nothing to worry about in either type of hemangioma. However, if there are located on the child’s eye, throat or anywhere else disruptive to the child’s normal activity levels and development, you should seek a medical opinion.
Take note that most of these birthmarks are harmless and are part of what makes your child unique. However, some types of marks come with potential health problems or may cause your child to be self-conscious in the future. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you notice any unusual marks or changes on your child’s skin, don’t hesitate to consult his paediatrician.
Baby birthmark on face
A baby’s birthmark on the face can be a source of concern for parents.
The most common type of birthmark is a vascular birthmark, which occurs because of an abnormal connection between blood vessels and the skin’s surface. Most vascular birthmarks occur in the first few months after birth and fade away before the age of five.
If your child has a birthmark on his or her face, you may worry that it might signify something more serious. Most facial birthmarks are harmless and do not require any medical treatment. However, if you are concerned about your child’s facial mark, consult your doctor immediately to determine whether it requires treatment.
Red birthmark on baby
A red birthmark on a baby is rare and can concern parents. There are many different types of red birthmarks, but most are harmless. Red birthmarks are often flat, raised or bumpy and may change in size or colour over time.
Some red birthmarks grow with the child. They may appear anywhere on the body but most often on the face and neck.
The cause of red birthmarks is unknown, but they are not harmful to your child’s health. Red birthmarks are usually easy to treat; however, if your child has a large birthmark covering an area of skin larger than 10 per cent of their body, you should see your doctor for an evaluation.
Growing birthmark on baby
A growing birthmark on a baby is something to be concerned about, as it could mean that the skin is being damaged by something.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to diagnose what is causing this problem, and there are various possible causes for a growing baby birthmark.
It’s important to remember that all babies develop many moles and birthmarks during their first few years of life, and most of these will fade or disappear completely without treatment.
However, if you notice any changes in the size or colour of your baby’s moles or birthmarks, it’s always best to bring them in for a checkup so a doctor can evaluate them.
The most likely cause of a growing mole or birthmark is an irritation caused by friction against clothing or other objects (such as when your baby rolls over).
If this seems like the case with your child’s mole or birthmark, try using some petroleum jelly on the area at night before swaddling your baby and see if this helps improve things.
Another possible cause for this issue is an allergic reaction to certain clothing or bedding materials.
Do birthmarks on babies go away
The short answer is no. Baby birthmarks do not go away, but they can fade with time.
The longer answer is that vascular malformations usually cause birthmarks in babies. These are clusters of blood vessels that form in a specific skin area and don’t go away.
They may fade over time, but there is no guarantee that they will-and even if they do fade, it’s likely to be at a very slow pace.
There is one exception: some baby birthmarks are caused by melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells that cause skin colouration. These can sometimes fade or disappear entirely if the baby spends a lot of time in the sun.
The catch is that exposing your baby to UV rays isn’t exactly safe! So it’s best to leave this option alone unless you have no other choice (like if you live in an area where you get little sunlight).
When should I be concerned about baby birthmarks
You’re not alone if you’ve ever worried about your baby’s birthmarks. There are different birthmarks, ranging from the small and subtle to the large and extreme. And while some of them may be more concerning than others, all baby birthmarks should be discussed with your paediatrician when they first appear.
Here are some signs that your baby’s birthmark should be examined by their doctor:
- Rapid growth or enlargement of the birthmark.
- Changes in colour, shape, or texture of the birthmark.
- Bleeding, itching, or ulceration of the birthmark.
- Associated pain or discomfort.
- Development of additional symptoms, such as fever or swelling.
Several factors play into whether or not a birthmark is a cause for concern:
The size of the baby’s birthmark
If it covers more than one area on your baby’s body or is larger than a quarter coin, this could be something to discuss with your doctor. In general, anything smaller than a nickel shouldn’t raise any red flags.
The location of the baby’s birthmark
You should also discuss any marks near major organs or blood vessels in great detail with your paediatrician so that he or she can identify whether or not there’s an underlying cause (like hemangioma) that may need treatment at some point down the road.
The colour of the baby’s birthmark
The colours of your birthmarks can tell a lot about the type of skin condition you’re dealing with. Red, blue/purple and black/brown birthmarks are more concerning because they can indicate bleeding underneath.
If you notice any new or changing marks in these colours, it’s essential to get them checked out by your doctor.
Birthmarks are a common skin condition that can be difficult to treat. Fortunately, there are several options available that can help lighten or remove them.
Treatment for birthmarks may include:
- Topical creams that contain hydroquinone or tretinoin
- Oral medications such as Isotretinoin or Propecia
- Laser treatments that use intense pulses of light to burn off the top layers of skin
Remember, birthmarks are generally harmless and common in infants. Most birthmarks do not require medical intervention and tend to fade or disappear with time. However, it’s always a good idea to consult your child’s paediatrician if you have any concerns or notice any changes in the birthmark. They can provide the necessary guidance and reassurance.
Enjoy the beautiful journey of parenthood, and don’t let birthmarks overshadow the joy of watching your baby grow and thrive!