What You Should Know About Birthmarks

Amy Jo Jones
20

Birthmark

When my nephew was born, I was more than a little taken aback when I saw a red, raised, bumpy patch on his neck. My sister assured me it was nothing, just a strawberry birthmark.

That didn't look like any strawberry I'd ever seen before and, excuse me, but I didn't think strawberries grew on babies!

Since we're dealing with babies, I guess it only makes sense that someone decided it would be best if the blotchy marks that show up at birth had names that were cute -- like "Stork Bite" or "Strawberry" or my favorite "Cafe Au Lait." I know now that birthmarks are common and that the tendency to have birthmarks may be inherited, so if you have one, there's a good chance your baby will, too.

Here are the most common birthmarks and what you need to know about them:

Stork bites (aka angel kisses or salmon patches): Well known pediatrician Dr. Greene says that these birthmarks look like blotchy pink or purple flat marks that are dilated capillary veins just under the skin's surface. They may increase in color when there's a change in temperature or the baby cries. Stork bites are found on the back of the neck and usually last into adulthood. Angel kisses are usually found on the forehead or eyelids.

Cafe au lait patches: These tan or light brown flat patches are extremely common and usually shrink as the child grows. You should keep these patches out of the sun as they may darken with sun exposure. The Mayo Clinic advises that while it's unusual, groups of six or more cafe au lait spots may be a sign of a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes abnormal cell growth of nerve tissue. If you observe this, talk to your doctor.

Hemangioma (strawberry birthmarks): According to Dr. Greene, these raised, rough lesions affect approximately 1 in 50 babies, although more often in girls, preemies, and babies with light-colored skin. They occur mostly on the head and neck and usually show up during the first six weeks of life. You don't need to do anything about them. After a year they suddenly stop growing and start shrinking without any treatment.   

Does your baby have a birthmark? Did you or your partner have one when you were born?  

  

Image via abbybatchelder/Flickr


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