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Port-wine stains (PWS)

These dark, berry-colored stains are present at birth on less than one percent of babies. They usually show up on the face or head, but they can appear anywhere on a baby's body. If your baby's port-wine stain is initially light-colored, it may fade as your child grows; however, most thicken and grow darker with age. If your baby's port-wine stain is near the eye and cheek, it may cause vision problems such as glaucoma, or seizures and developmental delay (a condition known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome).

Pigmented Birthmarks

Mongolian Spots

These large, flat bluish or grayish areas resemble (and may be mistaken for) bruises, and are usually found on the back or buttocks of dark-skinned babies. In fact, they occur on 95 to 100 percent of Asian, 90 to 95 percent of East African, 85 to 90 percent of Native American, 50 to 70 percent of Hispanic, and 1 to 10 percent of Caucasian babies. Most Mongolian spots fade by school age; however, some never fully fade.

Café au Lait spots

Between 20 and 50 percent of babies have one or two of these tan or light brown flat patches. They usually shrink as the child grows; although they may darken with sun exposure. Groups of six or more café au lait spots may be a sign of a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes abnormal cell growth of nerve tissue.


Also known as moles, these are clusters of pigmented skin cells that vary in size and may be flat or raised, black or brown, hairy or not. Most nevi show up later in childhood; however, approximately 1 percent of babies are born with them. These are called congenital nevi, or birthmark moles, and could indicate an increased risk of skin cancer (melanoma), especially if the moles are very large. This type of birthmark should be carefully observed over time by a doctor.

If a birthmark is prominent, threatens your child's health or is disfiguring or psychologically damaging, it may be removed, depending on the type, severity, and location of the birthmark. Treatment options include surgery, laser therapy, and topical, oral, or injected steroids. Unfortunately, almost all birthmark-removal treatments can cause some scarring.

For support and more information, check out Websites such as the Vascular Birthmark Foundation, or The American Academy of Dermatology.


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