What are birthmarks in babies and adults? What did you feel when you first noticed your baby’s birthmark?
Do you, as a parent ever think that your babies’ birthmark might lead to unwanted stares?
Or have you ever felt bad, deep down, when someone pointed out and said something negatively on your baby’s birthmark?
Have you ever thought why and how birthmarks are formed?
There are lots of kids with birthmarks. Some kids are born with birthmarks and few others will develop later (usually in the first month).
Today, I am here to discuss you all about birthmarks, some of the interesting myths surrounding birthmarks, its types, treatments available, and how to help your child to come to terms with their birthmarks.
I loved my boy’s birthmark
Rithvik, my now four-year-old son, was born with bluish-grey patches on the lower back and limb.
I still remember, when I first noticed this mark on my boy’s skin, I told my husband “I think he borrowed a bit of blue colour from Lord Krishna J”.
We adored it and every now and then ran our fingers over that area. To be frank, it had never bothered us. His doctor told us that the discoloration (scientifically known as Mongolian spots) will fade completely as he grows up.
But there were days, I found myself in a kettle of fish about what to reply to some elderly people’s bone-headed questions like, “Aiyoh, what happened and why does your baby have that unusual mark? Then they would speculate the reasons behind the mark.
Usually their answers were heavily laced with superstitious beliefs. Some of the common ones that I have encountered are – “May be its bad time for your family, maybe he will bring lots of money in the family, etc. As a bonus, they would throw in their free advice on ayurvedic and allopathic prescriptions. I used to wonder why others had a problem with my baby’s birthmark.
As my son grew older, it faded gradually. Now it is completely gone without any ‘magical’ remedies!
11 Old Wives’ Tales to Giggle About & The Actual Google Fact
There were and still are, lots of myths surrounding birthmarks in different parts of the world. Here, I have listed some of the very interesting old wives’ tales. So, let’s have a look and you are guaranteed to giggle!!
- Myth No: 1
If pregnant women stared at fire, their baby will be born with burn marks.
Seriously, I would really like to know this one. Anyone out there who stared at fire during pregnancy and got a baby with burn marks?
- Myth No: 2
If pregnant women stared at a mouse, they will deliver a baby with a hairy birthmark.
No truth in this either. Phew!
- Myth No: 3
A pregnant woman’s unfulfilled wish will manifest as birthmarks in their babies.
For example, if they craved for strawberry and couldn’t eat those, their baby will be born with a red birthmark, if they craved for beetroot (I don’t think anyone will crave for beetroot during pregnancy), their baby will be born with port-wine birthmark or if craved for chocolates, their baby will be born with café au lait spots.
I craved for jackfruit during pregnancy, so my baby should have gotten a yellow birthmark instead of blue birthmarks. Oops! Guess, I am having some serious colour blindness 😉
- Myth No: 4
If a baby is born with any birthmark on their left arm, they will become poor. The presence of a birthmark on the right arm means that they will become rich. If the birthmark is on their right foot, they will become travellers: whereas the presence of it on the left foot,will make them brainy. If on the stomach, they will be greedy.
Next time, if I hear someone telling these, I will be asking for evidence!
- Myth No: 5
If a baby is born with a moon shaped or cross shaped or kiss shaped birthmarks, he/she is considered as a divine baby bestowed from God.
So, what about other babies? In fact, all babies are God’s gift!
- Myth No: 6
If a baby born with a birthmark in the middle of the chest or born with star or heart shaped birthmark, they are considered as the luckiest baby.
The truth is that each and every parent consider their baby as harbinger of good luck!
- Myth No: 7
If we touch any baby with a birthmark, it will bring us good luck.
Better luck next time!
- Myth No: 8
In some cultures, birthmarks are looked as harmful and regarded as devil’s symbol.
By the way who is this devil and seriously ladies anyone seen this person?
- Myth No: 9
If a pregnant woman touches her belly on the day of a solar eclipse, her baby will be born with a birthmark.
Very strange, how could one restrict a pregnant woman from touching her belly?
- Myth No: 10
If a pregnant woman touches the same part of her body, while walking, her baby will be born with a birthmark on that exact area.
Yes, it’s very accurate, the birthmark will appear on the exact area: not even an inch difference J (Just kidding!)
- Myth No: 11
If you believe in incarnation, this will be quite interesting for you. Birthmarks are apparently, the source to find out how you died in your previous life!
Oh my God, this is very interesting!
The Only Fact
These are just myths and no truth in it and the fact is still a big mystery. Nobody knows why babies get birthmarks. Some researchers claim during pregnancy, the proteins produced by placenta maybe responsible for birthmarks. Some claim that birthmarks can be inherited.
But the thing that medical science is assuring us is that birthmarks cannot be prevented and are not caused by what a woman did, does or has done during her pregnancy or what or what not she ate during pregnancy.
That was the fun part, now for the serious stuff.
What are birthmarks in babies?
Now for the answer of the question: What are birthmarks?
Birthmarks are tinged marks seen on the skin of some newborns or develop shortly later.
Birthmarks can be flat or slightly elevated with or without regular patterns and are displayed on the skin in various colours like black, brown, pink, red, purple, and blue.
Birthmark is called daag in Hindi and are most common in Caucasians than Asian people. In majority of people, it appears harmless and stays as a sign of beauty. For few, its harmful and bothersome, connecting with some health issues.
Most of the birthmarks fade away on their own without any medical treatment.
Types of birthmarks
There are two main types of birthmarks – vascular birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks.
- Vascular Birthmarks
Vascular means related to blood vessels. So, this birthmark is formed when blood vessels are not composed in the right manner (abnormal blood vessels), like the appearance of too many blood vessels in a particular area.
They can either appear on the surface of skin in red, pink, or purple colours or deeply under the skin in blue colour.
It occurs mainly on face, head, and neck area.
The commonly found vascular birthmarks are:
#1. Macular Stains or Salmon Patch
Also, known by the name telangiectatic nevus, it’s the commonly seen vascular birthmarks in babies which is caused by the enlargement of capillaries.
It appears as flat red or pink shaped patches on the forehead, eyelids, nose, upper lip, neck or on the back of the head of newborns.
Salmon patches will fade away completely on its own within the first 1-4 years depending on the area of the body it appears and few will last until adulthood. These birthmarks are discernible when the child cries.
A salmon patch appearing on the face has got an interesting name – angel kiss. It will fade away within the first few years.
Salmon patch appearing on the back of the neck is called by stork bite which fade away slowly and are ordinarily covered by hair.
#2. Infantile Hemangiomas
Infantile haemangiomas is commonly known by the name strawberry marks. They appear as elevated red marks like a strawberry and hence the name.
They appear anywhere on the body, mostly on the surface of the skin and rarely deep in the skin and appear as blue in color.
It mostly affects girls and are seen on their head or neck. It should be treated if it appears on the areas affecting their sight/breathing/feeding.
The size of the mark keeps on increasing slightly during the first few months after birth. It should be treated if it doesn’t shrink and doesn’t stop growing even after the initial six months.
They will normally disappear around the age of 6 to 10 years.
#3. Capillary Malformation or Port-Wine Stains or Nevus Flammeus
These are purple or red marks which look like spilt wine and hence commonly referred by the name port-wine stains.
It is caused by abnormal bleeding of blood vessels and affects one side of the body only.
They usually appear in any size on the face, neck, chest, arms, legs, back, or anywhere on the body.
The size and colour of the mark grows and darkens respectively as the child grows.
These marks never go by its own and are discernible as they grow.
If the stains appear near eyes, they need special observation and treatment.
In rare cases, these are also related to brain abnormalities like Sturge-Weber syndrome and congenital vascular disorder like Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome.
#4. Silvermark or Witch’s Streak
It appears on the front part of the hairline like a silver streak of hair.
Babies born with silvermark are usually admired by peoples.
It’s known to be hereditary, i.e. any of the other family members have this mark.
- Pigmented Birthmarks
Pigmented birthmarks are clusters of pigmented cells formed by overgrowth of cells. They usually appear as brown-coloured marks.
The most common pigmented birthmarks are:
#1. Café-au-lait Spots
Café-au-lait spots are milk coffee-coloured patches seen on babies and hence the name.
They are either present at birth or occur soon afterwards.
They are usually oval in shape and can occur anywhere on the body.
These spots do not fade away as the kids grows.
If a baby has one or two marks, there is nothing to worry. But if it’s more than 5, seek medical advice. It could be a sign of neurofibromatosis, a genetically inherited disorder that cause neurofibromas (tumour) to grow along the nervous tissues. It may be harmful at times.
#2. Mongolian Spots
Mongolian spots are flat, blue-grey birthmarks that are present from birth. They look like a bruise.
These are commonly seen on Asian, African, American Indians and south European kids.
They usually occur over the lower back or buttocks or limbs. But they can also be seen anywhere on the body.
Mongolian spots are not at all harmful and only be seen on the initial few years.
They fade away when the kid hits four years of age.
They don’t need any sort of treatment.
#3. Congenital Moles or Congenital Pigmented Nevi or Hairy Nevus
These are the most common birthmarks and most of us bear these on our body.
Congenital melanocytic naevi are large brown or black moles. Their appearance will be that of flat or bumpy or hairy moles.
They are present from birth and gradually become smaller and go away with time.
The risk of a nevi developing into skin cancer is low, but the large ones have little chance of developing into skin cancer (melanoma).
Difference between moles and birthmarks
During our school days, we had to fill our identification marks in the school forms. Most of us had at least one mole to mark as our visible identification.
But is there any difference between a mole and birthmarks? Yes, there is and here are the differences:
Moles are known as beauty marks in a colloquially rather than birthmarks.
Moles are either brown or black in colour but birthmarks can be found in various colours like blue, green, red, grey, brown or black.
Moles are smaller in appearance but birthmarks appear in different sizes ranging from small to large.
Moles usually doesn’t require any treatment but some type of birthmarks needs treatment.
Now for the most important difference. Birthmarks are present from the time of birth or will develop soon after the birth (within a month) but moles start developing only after the first few months of birth and can develop at any stage of life.
How to identify whether my child’s birthmark is problematic?
Most of the birthmarks do not cause any problems for your child.
But do monitor your child’s birthmarks to see if it is growing bigger or changing colour. If the pattern of mole has changed or if it itches or bleeds, consult a doctor. They will examine the birthmark and tell you if treatment is necessary or not.
Treatments available for birthmarks
Every birthmark is not harmful and every birthmark is not treatable!
As I earlier said, most types of birthmarks will fade away over the time.
There is no guarantee that treatments will work for birthmarks.
Doctors will only suggest treatment if the birthmark is interfering with your kid’s breathing, hearing, seeing or feeding.
So, dear parents unless and until the birthmarks are causing problems, don’t go for any treatment for your kid. Sometimes the treatment procedures will be painful for your kid and has certain side effects associated with the treatment.
The following are the treatment options available.
Corticosteroids, the steroid hormones, are used to treat birthmarks like haemangiomas.
This will be suggested by doctors if and only if, the haemangiomas affects one’s vision, feeding, breathing or is infected.
It is either given orally or injected directly in the haemangiomas site to penetrate into the blood vessels under the birthmark. This will result in shrinking of the haemangiomas thus stopping their growth.
Side effects – weight gain
- Interferon alpha-12:
This medication is considered as a second choice. If the corticosteroids don’t work, this is used to shrink the birthmark thus restricting their growth.
Side effects – fever, irritation, liver problems, low white blood cells count
- OTC creams
Creams containing Retin A as an ingredient will help to fade the colour of birthmarks. This will also help in regeneration of new cells on that area thus lighten the colour of birthmarks.
Surgery is also recommended treatment by doctors for certain haemangiomas and moles.
Here, doctors will look for the location and severity of the birthmarks before opting surgery. If one needs to remove the birthmark for cosmetic reasons, then also doctors will recommend surgery.
The complication arises when the surgery has not been done properly. In such cases, the birthmarks may reappear.
Side effects (very rare) – post-operative haematoma (swelling of clotted blood)
#3. Laser Therapy:
Nowadays, this is one of the widely-used birthmark removal process. As other procedures, it doesn’t leave any scars.
It is commonly used for port wine stains, moles and the birthmarks that are present on the surface of the skin.
An aunt of mine has gotten a large black mole surgically removed from her face by using this technique.
In this technique, a special beam of light is focused on the birthmark. The high pigmented cells will heat up and burst. The normal cells will regenerate once the pigmented cells are damaged.
It’s best to start treatment in infant stage when the blood vessels are tiny. Also it’s very rare for the birthmark to reappear if laser therapy is used. If they do, then the process needs to be repeated.
Side effects – burning sensation, pain, infection (less common)
How to help my child to get used to the birthmarks?
As I mentioned earlier about my experience, at times some people just stare at our kids’ birthmark if it’s visible. Sometimes they may bother you with lots of questions and give a load of suggestions.
This is where you should be very cautious. Our kids are like magnets. They will look at how we react to such situations and grasp that coping mechanism from us. If people ask you anything, answer them boldly like “my child is born with this birthmark, it’s my child’s identity and we are very happy with it”
Teach your child not to feel ashamed or abashed by their birthmarks but to carry them proudly as the symbol of their identity and beauty.
Hope you all find this article useful and have found the answer to the question: What are birthmarks in babies?
The mystery part about birthmark is yet be to discovered. We can hope that modern science will be able to find it soon.
Always speak to your doctor to clear your doubts about your baby’s birthmarks.
Drop in your good and bad birthmark experience in the comment box below.
And don’t forget-
Carry your birthmark as your symbol of beauty & identity!!!