In years past, people believed that an expectant mother’s strong emotions during her pregnancy could “mark” a newborn’s skin.
This birthmark could be in the shape of the object of her fear or desire, or appear in an area where she touched her own skin during a period of heightened emotions.
We now know that birthmarks have nothing to do with such events. They are mostly benign irregularities on the skin.
Birthmarks are usually reddish (from increased numbers of tiny blood vessels) or darkly pigmented (from increased numbers of pigment cells).
Birthmarks come in many varieties.
Stork bite marks are light red or pink (“salmon patches”) flat, blanching birthmarks that appear on the nape of the neck, over the eyelids (“angel’s kisses”) or on the forehead above the bridge of the nose.
They are common in Caucasians, especially fair-skinned ones. Although they usually fade in childhood, those on the nape of the neck can persist.
Port-wine stain birthmarks are dark red, purple and flat. They do not fade and usually grow with the child.
They are more common on the face and occur in 0.3% of newborns. Sometimes they thicken and darken as the child gets older.
Strawberry hemangiomas are red birthmarks that usually show up around three weeks of age. Sometimes flat initially, they usually become raised and often grow larger for about a year.
Most go away during childhood (about 90% are gone by nine years of age).
They are also formed from clumps of tiny blood vessels and sometimes bleed if they sustain trauma.
Mongolian spots are bluish-gray, flat birthmarks that are usually found on the back and buttocks and can appear in any shape.
They are commonly found in Asian, Native American, Hispanic and African-American newborns. About 10% of Caucasian newborns have them. They usually fade by 2-3 years of age.
Café-au-lait spots are light brown, superficial birthmarks (like spilled coffee with milk). They can be anywhere on the body and tend to persist.
Congenital melanocytic nevi (moles) are brown or black skin lesions. They can be flat or raised, small or large, and can be found in a variety of locations. Some can be hairy.
The larger ones have an increased risk of developing the skin cancer melanoma in adulthood.
An expectant mother cannot touch the baby inside of her womb, so she cannot “mark” its skin.
Birthmarks are not caused by anything the mother does during pregnancy.