Health Information

Birthmarks

A baby's skin coloring can vary greatly, depending on the baby's age, race or ethnic group, temperature, and whether or not the baby is crying. Skin color in babies often changes with both the environment and health. Some of these differences are just temporary, part of the physical adjustments a baby goes through. Others, such as birthmarks, may be permanent.

What are birthmarks?

Birthmarks are areas of discolored and/or raised skin that are apparent at birth or within a few weeks of birth. Birthmarks are made up of malformed pigment cells or blood vessels.

Although the cause of birthmarks is not known, most of them are benign and do not require treatment. Babies with birthmarks should be examined and diagnosed by your child's physician- especially if they are located over the sacral area (lower back). These birthmarks can be associated with abnormalities of the underlying spinal cord.

Some of the common variations in skin color and birthmarks are described below.

Stork bites or salmon patches These are small pink or red patches often found on a baby's eyelids, between the eyes, upper lip, and back of the neck. The name comes from the marks on the back of the neck where, as the myth goes, a stork may have picked up the baby. They are caused by a concentration of immature blood vessels and may be the most visible when the baby is crying. Most of these fade and disappear completely.
Mongolian spots Mongolian spots are blue or purple-colored splotches on the baby's lower back and buttocks. Over 80 percent of African-American, Asian, and Indian babies have Mongolian spots, but they occur in dark-skinned babies of all races. The spots are caused by a concentration of pigmented cells. They usually disappear in the first four years of life.
Strawberry hemangioma This is a bright or dark red, raised or swollen, bumpy area that looks like a strawberry. Hemangiomas are formed by a concentration of tiny, immature blood vessels. Most of these occur on the head. They may not appear at birth, but often develop in the first two months. Strawberry hemangiomas are more common in premature babies and in girls. These birthmarks often grow in size for several months, and then gradually begin to fade. Nearly all strawberry hemangiomas completely disappear by nine years of age.
Port-wine stain A port-wine stain is a flat, pink, red, or purple colored birthmark. These are caused by a concentration of dilated tiny blood vessels called capillaries. They usually occur on the head or neck. They may be small, or they may cover large areas of the body. Port-wine stains do not change color when gently pressed and do not disappear over time. They may become darker and may bleed when the child is older or as an adult. Port-wine stains on the face may be associated with more serious problems. Skin-colored cosmetics may be used to cover small port-wine stains. The most effective way of treating port-wine stains is with a special type of laser. This is done when the baby is older by a plastic surgery specialist.

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