Birthmarks in Babies

by Sam Malone

Birthmarks or discolored spots are very common on babies. Eighty per cent of birthmarks on babies usually fade away. Some birthmarks tend to stay through life while others just fade away on their own. Birthmarks rarely affect daily living.

Birthmarks can be divided into pigmented birthmarks and vascular birthmarks.
  • Pigmented birthmarks are birthmarks that have developed as a result of abnormal cell growth. These birthmarks tend to be distinctive in color - like black, grey, brown or a shade of blue.
  • Vascular birthmarks form because of the accumulation of blood vessels below the surface of the skin. The color of such birthmarks could vary from pink to blue depending on the depth of the accumulated blood vessels

Between these two types of birthmarks, there are many versions with different names that can be identified. The most common type is the ‘vascular stain’ and it comes in many shapes. Up to 70 per cent of new born babies have them. Dilated capillaries under the skin form them and they can change color if the baby gets agitated. Then there are stains known as ‘port wine’ stains. These stains usually appear on the face or the neck and can sometimes stay through the baby’s lifetime. These stains might also grow and are purplish in color.

Then, there are moles which are basically a cluster of pigment cells. These moles generally grow as the child grows and can vary in size. Typically these do not appear on a baby. Hemangioma is another form of skin growth seen in babies. This growth can be a flat or a protruding lesion and typically appears early in a baby – mostly in the first six weeks. This birthmark can grow for up to a year but it is also known to stop growing on its own, turn white, shrink and eventually fall off. Another type of birthmark is the ‘Mongolian spot’, which is a type of pigmented birthmark. These birthmarks appear in darker skinned individuals and appear on the bottom or the back. These marks tend to harmless and can sometimes be mistaken for a bruise.

Not all these birthmarks appear on newborns but can still be quite disconcerting in the first few months. There are different treatment options but if the birthmarks are harmless, doctors suggest letting your baby be and letting its body handle the birthmark on its own. Most birthmarks are caused due to erratic blood supply. There are some complications associated with some type of birthmarks. The port wine stain, for instance, can be associated with the Stuge-Weber syndrome. Hemangiomas near the eye, nose, mouth or the genitals, might point to an internal infection. Occasionally hemangiomas are also known to bleed. Another form of a birthmark, called congenital melanocytic naevi (CMV) can increase very rapidly. In such instances it becomes important for you to seek help from your doctor. In the case of CMV, the doctor might suggest a biopsy to rule all else out. If there is an illness that is the cause of the birthmark, sometimes treating that condition can remedy the birthmark.

The causes for birthmarks are not specific. Birthmarks are not caused by the mother’s diet or by any other habit. These marks are not even related to any form of trauma, especially trauma to the skin. Occasionally birthmarks can be due to genetic issues. Sometimes new born babies also get jaundice and this can also lead to discoloration of the skin.

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