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Do birthmarks mean anything?

Your baby was born with birthmarks and you’re wondering—what do they mean? How do birthmarks come about? Which ones disappear and which ones remain? Are there any birthmarks that could be dangerous? We answer some of your most common questions.

What are birth marks?

Having birthmarks mean that part of your baby’s skin appears different from the rest of the skin. It could refer to skin that looks different in color, such as purple, bluish or reddish, or to blotchiness or raised patches.

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Birth marks can be caused either by the blood capillaries under the skin (vascular) or by the way that the skin cells have grown (pigmented). Some birth marks are temporary and fade as your baby grow, while others are permanent. The main types of birth marks your baby may have as are as follows:

  • Stork bites: These blotchy vascular birthmarks are most common with babies and can go away over time.
  • Port-wine stains: These are vascular birthmarks characterised by pink to purplish colouration that look like “wine stains”.
  • Moles: Another common birthmark, moles come in all kinds of colours and sizes.
  • Café au lait: These birth marks look like pale brown patches on the skin, and usually fade or shrink as your baby grows.
  • Mongolian spots: These are large blue or grey pigment spots on the behind of your babies. They are most common for darker skinned babies and can fade with time.
  • Hemangioma: These are clusters of vein cell growths that can protrude out of the skin. They are usually found on the head and neck and can continue growing over the first year of life before shrinking later on.

Are birth marks dangerous?

Most children are born with some kind of birthmark or other, and most birthmarks are not dangerous. However, some birth marks mean paying close attention to ensure that these abnormalities do not interfere with the body’s function. Some possible concerns include:

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  • Development problems: If you have birth marks very close to the eye, cheeks, necks, organs and lower spine, your doctor should be paying attention to them as they have a risk of affecting proper development.
  • Internal growth: If a birth mark like Hemangioma grows inwards, it can threaten organ function.
  • Disfigurement: Hemangioma also has the risk of causing irreversible skin changes as it grows, so you may want to seek treatment to control it.
  • Neurofibromatosis: If you have many café au lait spots in one area, they could mean neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder, so have your child tested.
  • Cancerous moles: If your baby has many large moles, they need to be checked regularly throughout his or her life to ensure that none of them show signs of becoming cancerous.

Can birthmarks be prevented?

You may have heard the old wives’ tales about having birthmarks mean you did something wrong during pregnancy, but the truth is that birth marks can’t be prevented. The cause of birthmarks is unknown, and could be linked to genetics, abnormal skin cell growth or trauma during birth.

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Rather than being upset by a unexpected birthmark, you should teach your child to accept his or her birth mark. Children watch their parents for how they should behave. Birthmarks mean what you think they mean. If you treat the birthmark as something normal and natural, he or she will also learn to respond to comments from other children.

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