Many babies have birthmarks. Birthmarks are coloured marks on the skin which are either present at birth or develop during the first few weeks after birth. Sometimes birthmarks are permanent and sometimes they may fade over time and disappear. There are two main types of birthmark:
- Vascular birthmarks: These are caused by an abnormality in the blood vessel. This type of birthmark is usually red, pink or purple.
- Pigmented birthmarks: These are caused by a collection of tiny blood cells or a cluster of pigment cells. This type of birthmark is usually brown in colour.
Both type of birthmark can appear anywhere on the body, although they can appear in several different forms.
- Infant Haemangioma: This is often referred to as a ‘strawberry’ as it is a red raised mark on the skin. Around 5% of babies develop this kind of birthmark soon after birth. They often increase in size during the first six months but will then begin to slowly shrink and eventually disappear by the time that the child is eight years of age. It is possible for this type of birthmark to be deeper into the skin and therefore look blue or purple in colour. Most birthmarks of this type are harmless although very bulky haemangiomas or those that may get in the way of the child’s vision, hearing or feeding may need to be removed.
- Port wine stain: These are flat red or purple marks which can range in size up to several centimetres in diameter. This type of birthmarks affects around 0.3% of babies. Port wine stains often appear on the face, chest and back and normally only on one
side of the body. Although some lighter marks may fade in time, most port wine stains are permanent and will get bigger and often darker in colour as your baby grows. Port wine stains also tend to be linked to your child’s hormones and will become more noticeable during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
- Salmon patches: These are often referred to as a ‘stork mark’. These are the most common type of vascular birthmark and about 50% of new born babies have them. They are flat, pink patches which can appear on your baby’s eyelids, middle of the forehead and also at the back of their neck. Most fade within a few months but they can last for up to 4 years. Sometimes, you may only be able to see them as your baby cries as this makes them more noticeable.
- Café-au-lait spots: These are light brown or ‘coffee’ coloured patches of skin. Many children have a few of these. However, if your child develops more than six of these it is advisable to contact your doctor as it may be a sign of a genetic disorder which affects the nervous system.
- Mongolian spots: These often get mistaken for a bruise as they are blue-grey marks that are a few centimetres and often appear on your baby’s bottom and lower back. They often disappear by the time your
child is four or five years old. They are more common in Asian or African babies. Mongolian spots are harmless and do not require any treatment.
- Congenital melanocytic naevi (CMN): Better known as congenital moles. These are large brown or black moles which vary between 1.5cms to 20cms in diameter and are present at birth. Over time congenital moles may become smaller and less obvious but during puberty or pregnancy they are likely to become darker. The risk of a congenital mole developing into skin cancer is very low but it is advisable to check the area for change regularly.
Your health visitor or doctor will be able to answer any questions that you have regarding your child’s birthmark.