If you are reading this, either you or your baby probably have a birthmark, maybe even both. It wouldn’t be surprising as birthmarks are relatively common and occur in 4 out of 5 babies. Birthmarks are defined as blemishes or areas of discolored skin that are noticeable at birth or soon after. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can appear almost anywhere on the body. Although experts do not really understand what causes birthmarks, the medical community has categorized them and explained their appearance. Some cultures have legends and folklore that lend spiritual meaning to these identifying marks. Here, we relieve some of the mystery, providing both medical and spiritual information about birthmarks.
14 Medical Reasoning
Some birth marks are hereditary, and others are not. Not all birthmarks appear exactly at birth, but sometimes can appear much later. Depending on the type of birthmark, it may darken, fade, shrink, grow or disappear as the child grows older. Occasionally, birthmarks can signal greater underlying medical issues like nerve and skin disorders or cancer. Most birthmarks do not cause any physical harm, but some can lead to emotional or psychological distress if the blemish is viewed as unsightly or disfiguring. It is not understood why some babies have birthmarks, and others do not. While the medical community can explain birthmarks as either vascular or pigmented in their origins, there is no clear explanation as to why they occur. There is no known way to prevent birthmarks, but there are treatment and removal options for certain types.
13 Spiritual Explanations
Many cultures and religions around the world have folklore related to the significance of birthmarks. These beliefs often promote stigma and superstition around the meaning of birthmarks. Many of these stories have references to past lives and injuries or traumas that may have occurred in another life. Some of them even explain birthmarks as symbols of a stressor to the mother during the pregnancy, or of her unfulfilled wishes. Many of these spiritual explanations even focus on the location of the birthmark, to foretell distinguishing characteristics of the child.
A scientific study by Dr. Ian Stevenson found links between birthmarks, and recollections from children of past lives. He concluded that in many cases, children provided evidence that coincided with their memories of experiences in a past life. In many circumstances, the children exhibited birthmarks that correlated with wounds, injuries, torture, and even the cause of their death in past lives. Stevenson provided verifiable information related to these cases. These birthmarks are often labeled as psychic birthmarks.
12 Café au Lait Spots
These birthmarks get their name from their light brown or “coffee with milk” color. The shape typically resembles an oval, with smooth or irregular edges. Some appear directly after birth or soon afterwards, but many are not noticeable until after the age of 2. This particular birthmark sometimes fades or shrinks with age, but can darken with sun exposure. Most people have 1 or 2, but others have more. Those who have four or more, may have a genetic nervous system disorder called Neurofibromatosis. This is a disorder that causes tumors (which look like café au lait spots) to develop on the nerves and is sometimes characterized by learning disabilities. The condition sometimes affects the whole body, causing discolored skin pigmentation. Usually the tumors are harmless, but sometimes serious nerve and tissue damage can accompany the disorder. In rare cases, the tumors can be cancerous.
Medical Explanation- Macules or patches of hyper pigmentation in the epidermis of the skin.
Spiritual Value- An old wives tales suggests that these birthmarks appear on a baby when the mother drinks too much coffee in her pregnancy. Some cultures believe that these are a result of chocolate cravings during the pregnancy. Brown birthmarks are considered a positive omen of success and prosperity, they are true to their nature, and do not engage in dangerous activity or gossip.
11 Mongolian Spots
Large, flat areas of blue to gray marks are that usually found on darker skinned people. Sometimes they are mistaken for a bruise. They usually appear on the buttocks or lower back. The marks fade over time and often disappear by the child’s sixth birthday.
Medical Explanation – congenital dermal melanocytosis or lesions with excess areas of pigment. This occurs when the meanocytes don’t complete the migration to the epidermis during embryonic development.
Spiritual Value –Korean mythology explains the birthmark as a mark from the shaman spirit of childbirth, who slapped the behind of the baby, to encourage the exit from the mother’s womb. When appearing in the shape of hand on the buttocks it is believed be a trademark that proves a link in lineage to Genghis Khan. Other cultures believe that these marks are a sign of a spiritual beating within the womb, as a result of spirits trying to eject the baby from the mother’s womb.
10 Strawberry Mark
Red, flat birthmarks that gradually grow bigger and usually become raised. The marks initially grow quickly in infancy, but then growth slows and many eventually fade away before the child reaches the age of 10. Sometimes the skin will show a scar, where the skin was stretched, even after the mark has disappeared. Occasionally, these blemishes can become open sores that result in infection. Strawberry marks on the eyelid need prompt treatment, as they can interfere with vision. Sometimes, these skin abnormalities can grow internally, causing problems with breathing or the health of internal organs.
Medical Explanation- superficial hemangiomas – Believed to be caused by excessive production of the cells that compose the lining of the blood vessels. Some experts say that these birthmarks could be the result of a placenta fragment that remained inside the developing embryo early on in the pregnancy.
Spiritual Value – Old wives tales say that if a mother eats strawberries during her pregnancy, the baby will be born with a strawberry birthmark. Other cultures believe that birthmarks are sign of a woman’s unfulfilled wishes or cravings, and thus, the strawberry mark appears because the woman craved but didn’t eat the strawberries. Red birthmarks are a symbol of those who are unsociable; likely do to their tendency to be stubborn and unwilling to accept other points of view.
9 Salmon Patch, Angel Kiss, or Stork Bite
The most common type of birthmark characterized by patches of pink, purple, or slightly red marks on the skin. Angel Kisses refer to salmon patches that appear on the face, and Stork Bites are references to marks that appear on the back of the neck. Angel Kisses typically fade in early childhood, but sometimes reappear when the child is distressed. Stork bites don’t usually disappear, and remain through adulthood. This type of birthmark often becomes more noticeable when the baby cries or when fever is present.
Medical Explanation - telangiectactic nevus - These birthmarks are caused by the expansion of tiny blood vessels, or a build-up of capillaries beneath the skin.
Spiritual Value- The term Angel Kiss may have originated from religious beliefs that these types of birthmarks are said to be gifts from heavenly powers. The name Stork Bite comes from the mythical belief that the birthmark is left behind by the stork that carried the baby by the neck when he/she was “delivered”. Pink birthmarks are also believed to be a symbol of high intellectual abilities, with a strong disposition towards respect and success. These people have a genuine for love for others, and often enjoy a quiet, family life.
8 Port Wine Stain
Pink, red or purple marks that can occur anywhere on the body, but are most frequently found on the face. Size varies from tiny to several centimeters. If untreated, the stains will potentially get darker and often get bigger as the child grows. Sometimes port stains can also thicken or become lumpy with age. Port stains that affect the eyelid sometimes need monitoring or treatment, as there is a risk associated with developing glaucoma. In rare cases, port stains are linked with the Sturge-Weber syndrome. Complications of this neurological disorder are developmental delay, brain abnormalities, and seizures.
Medical Explanation- nevus flammeus- Caused by abnormal bleeding of blood vessels in the affected area. When the nerves of these capillaries are damaged, port stains can develop.
Spiritual Value- Those who believe in reincarnation, often interpret port stains as scars from burns in the previous life. The birthmarks appear when the time between the past life and the current life was not long enough to completely heal the body. The darker the color, the less time the wound had to recover. Some cultures believe that a child with this type of birthmark was born to a woman who craved beets and jelly during the pregnancy.
A silver streak of hair, often found on the left or right side of the forehead, at the hairline. This mark is not commonly seen at the time of birth, but is more likely present after the age of 7. This birthmark is believed to be hereditary, as it is not uncommon for other family members to have the same or similar silvermarks.
Medical Explanation - Unknown
Spiritual Value- Some people believe that there is a meaningful connection between all people with a silvermark, a pedigree of sorts that dates back through many centuries. Sometimes this birthmark is coveted, and is viewed as charming. Other times it is viewed as a witch’s streak or a mark of the devil.
Round spots that vary in size may be flat or raised, and black or brown. This type of birthmark does not show up at birth at all, and usually doesn’t present itself until the child is at least a few years old.
Medical Explanation- Caused by clusters of pigment producing skin cells.
Spiritual Value- Many cultures believe that a mole on the face is a symbol of good luck; some believe that they are extra lucky if hairs grow from them.
5 Very Large Brown or Black Moles
These birthmarks occur in approximately 1% of American babies. 15 % of them occur on the head or neck. Unlike other moles that appear later in childhood, these moles are present at birth. The pigment depends on the skin color of the affected person. Fair skinned people have light brown moles, and darker skinned people have nearly black moles. The shape can be irregular, flat, raised or lumpy. Sometimes they grow hair or darken in color during puberty. Cancer risk is low, but the bigger the mole, the greater the risk.
Medical Explanation – Congenital melanocytic nevus – Caused by a cluster of pigment producing skin cells.
Spiritual Value – Many cultures believe that these types of moles that are evident at birth are marks of the devil. Some believe that the mole is hairy if a pregnant woman saw a mouse. Other views say that black birthmarks are a very bad omen of a tough life, unhappy childhood, poor health, and money trouble.
4 Bluish Strawberry Mark
This strawberry mark appears bluish-red in color, but otherwise closely resembles the latter. The raised mark tends to grow rapidly during infancy, and then typically disappears by the time the child in his/her teen years.
Medical Explanation- deeper/cavernous hemangioma- Caused by abnormal vessels that are deeper lying than the superficial hemangioma.
3 More Birthmark Beliefs: Location
The greatest majority of superstitions found in various cultures throughout the world are related to the location or shape of the birthmark. According to many, the location reveals indications about the person’s character, personality, and success or failure in various aspects of life. These are most widely held beliefs.
Arms: Birthmarks that appear on the right arm indicate a wealthy life, those are the left arm, predict the opposite, a life of financial struggle. Anywhere on a man, can tell of family oriented man who loves to be home and spend time with his children. For a woman, can mean that she will be independent, and may put her career before all else.
Near the Mouth: A symbol of great wealth and happiness, tells of sensitive character, and a chatty personality, or a happy cheerful disposition.
Chin: For a man, this indicates a short temper, for a woman, she will be the matriarch or breadwinner of her family.
Hands or fingers: Can reveal that a person is dependent on others, or that the person may have a specific talent-Chest- indicate that a person will be lucky and prosperous, a life of happiness.
Stomach: Warns of a greedy, self centered person.
Back: Reveals that a person is honest, trustworthy, truthful, and open minded. Can also indicate a life filled with burdens.
Legs: Shows that a person will be dependent on others, or that the person is unable to make decisions on their own. Others perspective believe that a birthmark on the legs is a sign of independence.
Feet: The right foot is the mark of an adventurer and gives clues to a person who will love to explore and travel. The left foot reveals an intelligent person.
Hearts: Predicts a life full of love with the person’s true soul mate, and a passionate, fun loving personality.
Cross: Known as the mark of Cain, a reference to a story in the Bible. Some believe that it is a genetic mark that reveals a direct bloodline descendent of Cain, or any descendant of the Biblical Royal Family. Other views say that this is a brand to warn others of a person with bad character, as Cain was the only person pardoned of murder in the Bible.
Stars: Considered being a very rare and lucky sign.
Birds: A particularly good omen, especially if the wings are open, of a person with inherent goodness incapable of evil. May be an indicator of great musical or artistic talent. This mark is sometimes believed to be hereditary.
Cat: This is a sign of mystery, secrecy, and magical powers. Many cultures take it to be a mark of the witch or the devil. Others believe that people with this mark make excellent actors, prosecutors, and lawyers.
Other Animal Shapes: Often indicate a special link with the animal kingdom, people who believe in reincarnation, often associate this symbol with a life lived as this animal in a previous life.
1 Treatment, Removal or Acceptance
Most birthmarks eventually fade away or are medically harmless. However, birthmarks are sometimes treated or removed if necessary or possible. This typically happens when the mark has the potential to cause health problems or if the patient has a strong aversion to it. Some treatments are painful and are not guaranteed to work. Not all birthmarks can be treated, and if the benefits do not outweigh the conflicts, doctors may not recommend it.
Sometimes medication or injections can be administered, to prevent further growth or even to shrink birthmarks. Laser therapy is sometimes used on birthmarks that are close to the surface, or on port stains, particularly those that appear on the face. Surgery may be recommended when other methods are not successful, and when the birthmark is cause for medical concern.
Sometimes disfiguring birthmarks are not visually treatable or removable. In these cases treatment is largely psychological, and comes with recommendations for dealing with embarrassment, as well as in gaining acceptance. Children and parents can be taught how to deal with public interest, when they understand how to respond to onlookers and insensitive remarks. For more information, discuss these issues with your health care provider, or ask for resources through the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.