Birthmarks and newborn skin conditions


What are birthmarks?

A birthmark is a small spot of discolouration on the skin which is either present at the time of birth, or it develops shortly after birth. Most birthmarks are harmless.

Different types of birthmarks

There a number of different types of birthmarks. They can be sorted into the following categories:

Vascular (from blood vessels) 

Salmon patches: flat areas of pink or red discolouration. They may eventually fade away or they could stay. On the face, they’re sometimes called angel’s kisses and at the back of the neck, they are nicknamed stork bites. 

Hemangiomas: these birthmarks appear on top of the skin or below it. If it’s on top, it’s often called a strawberry birthmark. Under the skin it may resemble a blue swelling, This often goes away and becomes completely flat by the time the child is 10 years old. 

Portwine stains: these birthmarks resemble a patchy rash, the colour of port wine or grape juice. These birthmarks generally require medical intervention to get them to move.

Pigmented (from cells that control skin colour)

Moles: commonly quite small. Moles can also be larger, raised or flat, pink or brown in colour. Keep an eye on your moles, if they start to itch or bleed or cause the child irritation, have them examined. 

Cafe-au-lait spot: large brown spot. These spots can be any shape and are generally a few shades darker than the surrounding skin. They often fade away with time. 

Mongolian spots: resembling a bruise, these marks are often green or blue. They typically appear on babies backs or bottoms. They sometimes fade away.

What causes birthmarks?

Birthmarks are not caused by anything the mother did or didn’t do while pregnant. They are the result of too many blood vessels, melanocytes, smooth muscle, fat, fibroblasts, or keratinocytes congregating at the same area on the skin. In some cases, birthmarks are a symptom of another condition.


When to worry about a birthmark

For the most part, birthmarks are harmless. In fact, many birthmarks completely disappear over time. In some cases, a birthmark may disrupt other necessary processes in the body; for example, a haemangioma can restrict airflow, become ulcerated, or affect vision.

Treatment options for birthmarks

Haemangioma can be treated with cortisone, either topically or by injection, to reduce the size of the mark. For birthmarks like port wine stains, treatment options like cryotherapy, laser surgery or surgical removal remain the best options. These treatments are only recommended if absolutely necessary. Avoiding the psychosocial aspects of large birthmarks in order to increase confidence, remains a prominent reason for removing birthmarks.

Newborn skin conditions

A new baby may experience any number of strange symptoms, from a rash to a reddened navel. It is easy to feel worried, after all, the baby isn’t able to communicate the exact symptoms. Some of the common ailments that are largely harmless include the following:

Umbilical Granulomas 

Sometimes, after the umbilical cord has fallen away, a hardened red lump may form on baby’s navel. It may also ooze or cause redness around the navel. For the most part, this is harmless and not painful, self-resolving over time. Sometimes, it may get infected. Signs of infection include crying, fever, red streaks around the navel, and the hotness of the affected area. The condition must then be treated.

Cradle cap

Neonatal dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition among newborns. It usually develops in the first 3 months of life and self-resolves over time. It’s completely harmless, although a good moisturiser may help to resolve it. It is not yet understood what causes cradle cap, but we have observed it mostly occurs near the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands.

Nappy rash

Skin that is frequently exposed to moisture may react. A nappy rash is an inflammation of the buttocks and genital area – redness, swelling, and bumps in patches are common symptoms. In some cases, harsh soaps and topical treatments like soaps, oils, powders, and moisturisers may exacerbate the symptoms. Sometimes, a fungal infection may also be present, if your baby recently had antibiotics, this is especially likely. If the rash does not clear up within 3 days, book a consult with us to determine the nature of the rash.

Erythema toxicum

A benign condition which resembles acne: “Hallmark signs of the condition are yellowish papules surrounded by red skin on the face and trunk, upper arms and thighs”. It typically affects babies in their first days or weeks of life. It requires no treatment as it self-resolves fairly quickly.

When to worry about your newborn’s skin condition

Never wait more than 3 days to see a doctor if you see a strange rash or a mark on your newborn that has appeared and has not resolved itself. 

Always trust your instincts, especially if you feel something is more serious than it seems. As newborns are unable to communicate the full extent of their symptoms, it is better to always rule out serious or potentially painful conditions. 

While many common newborn illnesses may be harmless, many are serious and may require serious medical intervention. It is always better to get a proper diagnosis. 

Our practice welcomes families with young babies and children, we understand the anxiety you may feel. Book your appointment by getting in touch via your phone line.