New Parent? Helpful Information About Your New Baby’s Port Wine Stain Birthmark

New parenthood is usually accompanied by a rush of emotions as parents bond with their newborn in the hours immediately after birth. During this time, they begin to understand the enormous responsibilities of protecting and nurturing their child.

When the child is born with a prominent birthmark, such as a port wine stain, new parents are often concerned about the cause and what having the birthmark may mean for their child. If you are a new parent of a child born with this type of birthmark, the following information can help you understand and feel more comfortable in dealing with it. 

One of the most common birthmarks

Port wine stains are a common birthmark, currently estimated to occur approximately once in 300 births. The name results from the appearance of the birthmark, often described as looking as if port or red wine has been spilled on the infant's skin. 

These birthmarks range in size from very small to very large ones that cover a significant portion of the body. The color at birth, usually a rosy red or blueish tone, often darkens with age. 

Parents looking for information about this type of birthmark should be aware that port wine stains are always present at birth. Hemangiomas are another somewhat similar birthmark that can be present at birth or appear shortly afterward and are sometimes confused with a port wine stain.

Any discoloration that appears after birth should always be discussed with your child's health care professional at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is not a medical symptom. 

Medical treatment is usually unnecessary

In most cases, the port wine stain birthmark is considered to be a harmless cosmetic issue with no treatment necessary. In very rare cases, port wine stains that are located on the eyelid, cheek, or forehead may place the child at increased risk of eye health issues and other medical problems, including Sturge-Weber syndrome or epilepsy. 

The majority of children born with this birthmark, however, will suffer no health issues from its presence. Due to the increased pigmentation in the area of the birthmark, dry skin can be a minor cause of discomfort. A daily application of a moisturizer on the surface is usually all that is required to alleviate help relieve dry skin. 

Ongoing research 

Researchers believe that port wine stain birthmarks are caused when a single gene undergoes a random change in the period after conception. The genetic change triggers a molecular switch, forcing it to remain on instead of turning off and on as it should. This genetic discovery is particularly important because it also causes the related but much more serious Sturge-Weber syndrome. 

Removal should be considered carefully 

If the port wine stain is relatively small and not located on the face, the common treatment is simply to help the child view it as a normal part of their appearance. Some port wine stains become bumpy as the child matures and can be subject to bleeding, such as when the surface is irritated by clothing. If the birthmark appears on the face or is very dark in appearance, laser treatments may be able to lighten or remove much of the discoloration.

Surgical or other options may also be needed or desired if discomfort or bleeding is an issue due to texture changes or other concerns. It is important to note, however, that while treatments exist that may lighten or lessen the appearance of the birthmark, it may not be possible to fully remove it, especially if it covers a large area of the body. 

Parents of babies born with a port wine stain will want to work closely with their child's medical care provider to monitor the birthmark as their child grows. The doctor will be able to answer questions and help you decide whether removal should be considered or if further testing or treatment is needed.