All About Birthmarks in Babies
Strawberry hemangiomas and cafe au lait spots. No, these are not items in a fancy restaurant menu; they are just two of the many kinds of common birthmarks found in babies. Browse through this gallery now to learn more about birthmarks in babies.
Many babies are born with birthmarks that may get some mums and dads a bit anxious. To make things more complicated, there are many types of birthmarks that come in a range of colours, shapes and sizes.
We’re here to ease some of those worries and take you through the various types of 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. It can be flat or raised and according to John Hopkins Medicine, is made up of abnormal pigment cells or blood vessels.
It is not known what exactly causes birthmarks to form, however, the majority of them are harmless, explain experts. Also, they can appear anywhere on the body. There are two types of birthmarks:
Pigmented birthmarks: These 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 birthmarks 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.
When the birthmark is located on the lower back – these may be indicative of a spinal cord issue very large and on the head, neck or face located on a part of the body that might have an impact on your baby’s movement or development, e.g. on the eyelid. noticeably getting bigger or you see a dramatic change in texture or colour.
The most common type of birthmarks in babies
1. Salmon patches/stork bites/angel kisses
Known variously by these three names, these are pink/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 very common, appearing on up to 70 percent of newborns and, according to John Hopkins Medicine, are formed by a concentration of small capillaries close to the surface of the skin.
They are most noticeable when 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 by the time 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 them if you see one on your baby’s skin.
2. Café au lait spots
These milk-coffee coloured flat birthmarks are oval in shape and noticeable at birth or soon after.
While their colour may fade or they may 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.
Café au lait spots sometimes appear in multiples. According to Medical News Today, “people with more than four [café 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).”
If you notice more than four of these birthmarks on your child, please seek a medical opinion without delay.
3. Port wine stains (nevus flameus)
These vascular birthmarks are present at birth and range from light pink to dark purple in colour. 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 growing darker in colour and bigger in size. While they are usually flat against the skin at birth, over time, they may become bumpy and raised.
The best way to treat these birthmarks is with a special type of laser (by a plastic surgery specialist) once the baby is older.
Rarely, according to Medical News Today, port wine stains may be linked to the presence of a 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 gray colour, these birthmarks are more typically found in babies of Asian and black heritage.
You’ll notice them usually on baby’s bottom or lower back. They are caused by an excess of pigmentation and usually fade away by the time 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 that there are 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 in colour and bulge out of the skin, appearing after the baby is born.
While both types of hemangiomas may grow quite rapidly in baby’s first year causing parents alarm, they usually start to shrink thereafter. By the time the child is 10 years old, these birthmarks are usually flat, although they may leave behind a faint mark.
In general, there’s nothing to worry about 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.