Common Birthmarks on Babies

birthmarks on babies
Heart-shaped birthmark on the palm of baby's hand.
Photo by Marc Levin via Flickr

Birthmarks on babies are always a great concern for parents. Some of these birthmarks are very common and others are extremely rare.

The major problem is when a birthmark affects the appearance of a child, then it will also affect a child's mental health.

Most birthmarks will not harm your baby and treatment is often not necessary. Some will clear gradually and disappear over time.

There are birthmarks that may need to be surgically removed and others require laser treatment (pulse dye laser).




What are birthmarks?

There are two types of birthmarks:

  • Red birthmarks are vascular (malformation of blood vessels) birthmarks. The red coloring of the skin comes from the collection of blood vessels in the area.
  • Pigmented Birthmarks. These are considerable groups of melanocytes on a certain part of the skin. Melanocytes are the cells that cause the coloring of our skin. Some of these pigmented birthmarks are present at birth and some appear shortly after birth.

Usually birthmarks are not treated until school age unless they cause psychological problems or jeopardize a child's breathing or vision. Birthmarks that are inflamed, ulcerating, bleeding or a potential risk of developing skin cancer will also require earlier treatment.


Cause of birthmarks

It is still not fully understood what causes birthmarks on babies. Whatever some may tell you don't belief silly old wives' tales that drinking too much coffee during pregnancy causes cafe au lait spots or that port wine stains are the result of spilling wine on a pregnant woman.

Often birthmarks are nothing more than minor traumas of blood vessels caused by the pressure that is put on the baby during birth.


Port wine birth mark or port wine stains

Port wine birthmark

These are flat red or purple marks are caused by a malformation of tiny blood vessels and they are not cancerous. Port wine stains are birthmarks on babies that don't fade but become darker and grow along with the baby.

Fortunately with laser treatment doctors are able to clear or significantly lighten those port wine birthmarks.

Sometimes port wine stains are associated with venous malformations like with the Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome.


Stork marks or salmon patches

Stork Mark between the eyebrows
Stork mark between the eyebrows.
Photo Courtesy Growling Frog

Stork marks are dilated small blood vessels (capillaries), affecting 30 to 40% of all newborn babies.

They appear most often on the nose, between the eyebrows and the chin. These flat pink patches fade away in the first year of life.



Strawberry marks or infantile hemangioma 

Strawberry birthmark or
Infantile Hemangioma

strawberry mark

Strawberry birthmarks are harmless tumors present at birth and growing rapidly in the first year.

Hemangiomas are a result of fast dividing cells of the blood vessel walls. Children with more than one hemangioma may have also internal lesions in liver or lungs.



Café au lait spots. (light brown stains)

cafe au lait spotsThese spots are hereditary pigmented lesions often with an irregular border. Most of the time these birthmarks on babies are not present at birth.

Some diseases like fibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis may be accompanied by 6 or more caf au lait spots.

On the right 5-year-old girl with McCune-Albright syndrome.

Photo by Claudia E Dumitrescu, Michael T Collins. Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases


Mongolian blue spots or dermal melanocytosis

mongolian blue spot
Photo by: Abby lu

These bruises like birthmarks in babies occur more often in dark skinned infants. They are blue gray spots of 2 to 8 centimeters wide and you find them mostly at the back, spine or shoulders.

A Mongolian blue spot, visible on the lower back of a six-month-old Taiwanese baby girl.

They are caused by pigment producing cells in a deeper layer of the skin and cover a flat area with unclear edges. The spots will fade over the years. Sometimes Mongolian blue spots are mistaken for bruises and child abuse.


Congenital melanocytic neves

congenital melanocytic nevus
Photo by:M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf,
V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara


A mole present at birth or shortly after caused by a cluster of pigment cells. The risk of turning into a cancerous mole is higher in children with a giant (larger than 20 cm) congenital melanocytic nevus (MCN).

All birthmarks on babies should be checked by a doctor.




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