Birthmarks are abnormal skin discolorations in spots that are either present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. They can be flat or slightly raised from the skin. They can be any number of colors, including red, brown, black, tan, pink, white or purple. Birthmarks are generally harmless. There are two major categories of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and red birthmarks.
Pigmented Birthmarks can grow anywhere on the skin and at any time. They are usually black, brown or skin-colored and appear singly or in groups. They can be moles (congenital nevi) that are present at birth, Mongolian spots, which look like bluish bruises and appear more frequently on people with dark skin, or café-au-lait spots that are flat, light brown or tan and roughly form an oval shape.
Red Birthmarks (also known as macular stains) develop before or shortly after birth and are related to the vascular (blood vessel) system. There are a number of different types:
- Angel kisses, which usually appear on the forehead and eyelids.
- Stork bites, which appear on the back of the neck, between the eyebrows on the forehead, or on eyelids of newborns. They may fade away as the child grows, but often persist into adulthood.
- Port-wine stains, which are flat deep-red or purple birthmarks made up of dilated blood capillaries (small blood vessels). They often appear on the face and are permanent.
- Strawberry hemangiomas, composed of small, closely packed blood vessels that grow rapidly and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually disappear by age nine.
- Cavernous hemangiomas are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but go more deeply into the layers of the skin. These can often be characterized by a bluish-purple color. They also tend to disappear naturally around school age.
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Although less common, there are a few skin conditions related to pregnancy:
PUPPP (Pruritic Uticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy)
This condition occurs in roughly one percent of pregnant women. It is characterized by itchy red bumps and hive-like rashes that usually appear on the belly or around stretch marks. The rash may spread to the arms, legs, breasts or buttocks. PUPPP usually begins in the third trimester of pregnancy. It is harmless, but the itchiness can be severe. There is no known cause for the condition. Treatment typically includes the use of topical ointments, antihistamines and, in more severe cases, oral steroids to help alleviate the itch. PUPPP usually disappears a few days after the baby's birth.
Prurigo of Pregnancy (Papular Eruptions of Pregnancy)
A rare skin condition that can occur anywhere on the body. Prurigo looks like a collection of bug bites. Its onset is usually not before the third trimester and it typically lasts up to three months after delivery. The condition is harmless to mother and baby. Like PUPPP, it is generally treated with topical ointments, oral medications, antihistamines or steroids.
Pemphigold Gestationis (Herpes Gestationis)
This extremely rare condition starts as a hive-like rash, which turns into large blistering lesions. It usually begins on the abdomen and spreads to the mother's arms and legs. It causes severe itchiness. It typically begins in either the second or third trimester. It may also come and go intermittently throughout a pregnancy. Pemphigold gestationis is associated with an increased risk for pre-term delivery and fetal health issues. If you suspect you may have this condition, seek immediate medical attention.