Why Do We Have Birthmarks?

Birthmark is the term used to describe any of the many common skin marks that are present at birth or appear soon afterwards. It does not imply that they were caused by the physical process of birth.

The science behind presence of birthmarks claims that they are caused by an overgrowth or increased activity of tissues in the skin, including pigment cells, blood vessel cells or connective tissue cells.

It is quite frequent and usual that most people have the same birthmarks as their parents or siblings, because birthmarks are often genetic or inherited. While most birthmarks pose no harm and just make people look unique, a few of them may be a sign of an underlying condition or have long-term concerns of becoming malignant (or cancerous).

Infants who are born with a congenital mole are at a soared risk of developing a melanoma type of skin cancer when they get older. If your child has multiple congenital moles or a larger congenital mole, it is important that a dermatologist regularly evaluates the affected skin for changes.

Birthmarks are quite common. In fact, more than 10 percent of babies have these marks!

Medical Categorization of Birthmarks:

Some medical researchers claim that a build-up of cells that line the blood vessels of infants causes strawberry marks to occur which later develops into birthmarks. Some doctors believe that a tiny piece of placenta may become lodged inside the developing embryo very early on in the pregnancy. Furthermore, if damage occurs to the nerves that control the widening or narrowing of capillaries, there is a chance of port-wine stains, especially if the capillaries permanently widen in one area. Having said that, many experts believe that some proteins produced by the placenta during pregnancy may be linked to a higher chance of developing some types of birthmark.

Types of Birthmarks:

There are 2 broad categories of birthmarks:

  • Vascular birthmarks. Vascular birthmarks are red or pink in color owing to their association with blood vessels. They form when blood vessels, that are present in or below the skin, don’t develop properly. This is what gives them their pink or red coloration.
  • Pigmented birthmarks. Pigmented birthmarks are brown, black or bluish in color as they occur due to pigment changes within the skin. They are formed when there is an increase in darker pigmentation of the skin. This can be due to an increase in pigment (melanin) in the area or the clumping of melanin-producing cells called melanocytes.

The occurrences of some birthmarks are more frequent than others. Birthmarks like haemangioma occur in 5-10 percent of new-borns. A stork mark is another common type of vascular birthmark. Other birthmarks occur less often. Port wine stains are rather rare, with an estimated incidence of 0.3 percent.

Having talked about the biological and scientific explanation behind occurrences of birthmarks, it is important to note that there are several superstitions and myths that are attached to the concept!

Moles were considered evidence of guilt during the Salen Witch Trials. The “maternal impression” myth suggests that if a woman experiences an especially strong emotion during pregnancy and touches a particular location on her body, her baby may be born with a birthmark on that part of her baby’s body. Freaky right?

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