Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Babies can be born with a variety of birthmarks.  Other birthmarks appear later as your baby grows.  Most are either caused by unusually pigmented cells or blood vessels.  Most birthmarks are harmless but there are a few instances where they need followup with a healthcare provider.

Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Hemangiomas

One in 20 newborns develop hemangiomas.  They are made up of extra blood vessels in the skin.  There are two main types: strawberry hemangiomas and deep hemangiomas.

Strawberry hemangiomas get their name from the bright red textured appearance of these hemangiomas.  Typically they grow quite quickly during the first year of life and then they begin flattening out and fading.

Deep hemangiomas appear are usually not visible initially.  As they grow they will appear as blue grey bumps under the skin.  In most cases they begin fade around one year.  Many children will be left with some scar tissue from the hemangioma.

In some cases where the hemangiomas are near the eyes, medical intervention may be recommended to prevent problems with vision.  In other cases very large hemangiomas can be associated with brain and heart problems and will require further followup.

Nevus Simplex

These birthmarks are more commonly known as stork bites or salmon patches.  They are caused by a concentration of immature blood cells.  They are often seen between the eyebrows and on the back of the neck.  They usually fade over time.

Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Cafe au lait spots

These markings do not usually appear at birth but develop over time.  They are caused by a cluster of cells with increased melanin.  They are usually harmless but a child with more than 6 cafe au lait markings should be investigated for neurofibromatosis type 1.

Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Congenital melanocytosis 

These birthmarks are better known by their colonial name, Mongolian spots.  They are very common in darker skinned babies of all races.  They are a concentration of darker pigmented cells often seen on the back or buttocks.  In many cases they have been mistaken for bruising.  They slowly fade in the first few years of life.

Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Nevus Flammeus

These birthmarks are well known as Port Wine stains.  These purplish/redish birthmarks are caused by swollen blood vessels.  These birthmarks do not go away and in many cases they grow with the child and the colour can deepen.  In some cases they can be associated with Sturge-Weber syndrome or Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome.  Port wine birthmarks that involve the eyelids can also put the individual at risk for developing glaucoma.

Birthmarks: The Different Kinds and When to Call the Doctor

Congenital Nevi

Some babies are born with this type of mole.  These are different than the type of mole that develops after sun exposure.  Babies that are born with quite a few moles should be evaluated by their healthcare provider to ensure that they don’t also have pigment cells growing in their central nervous system.

Talk to your healthcare provider if:

Your baby has a strawberry hemangioma that is bleeding or appears infected

 Your baby has birth marks along their spine

Your baby has large birthmarks on their head, neck, or face

Your baby’s birthmarks are interfering with functions such as a birth mark over their eyes that may be affecting vision.

If you’re looking for evidence based information and support to navigate life with your newborn, reach out to your local Mama coach.

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