Stork Bite Birthmark: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

Stork bite birthmarks, also known as stork bites, angel kisses, or salmon patches, are pinkish or reddish patches on the neonatal skin. While babies may have different types of birthmarks, including moles and port-wine stains, stork bite birthmarks are collections of blood on the skin from tiny blood vessels called capillaries.

Most babies have stork bite birthmarks on their eyelids, between the eyes, or on the back of their neck above the hairline. They are common and seen in approximately one-third of newborns at birth.

Read on to learn about the causes, treatment, and prevention of stork bite birthmarks and how to differentiate them from other birthmarks.

What Is A Stork Bite?

Stork bite birthmark in babies

A stork bite, also known as a salmon patch, is a reddish or pinkish birthmark in newborns. It may occur on the eyelids, nose, upper lip, neck, and forehead. The term ‘stork bite’ is usually used when the birthmark occurs on the nape (back of the neck). A stork bite is called angel’s kiss when it occurs on the forehead (1).

Dr. David G. Li, a board-certified dermatologist from Boston, Massachusetts, says, “Stork bites, also known as nevus simplex, salmon patches, or angel’s kiss, are quite common in newborns and typically don’t indicate any underlying condition. They are categorized under capillary malformations involving tiny blood vessels under the skin. Stork bites can appear on the face, forehead, and posterior neck/nuchal area. Sometimes, a variant of the nevus simplex can warrant additional workup, for instance, if it is located over the lower back or the tailbone area.”

The medical terms for stork bite are nevus simplex and nevus flammeus nuchae (2). The name ‘stork bite’ is derived from the myth that the mark on the back of the neck appears because it is where the stork may have picked up the baby.

The birthmark appears in around 30% of babies (3). Stork bites are relatively harmless and not life-threatening. The marks may fade away by the age of two, but stork bites on the nape tend to be permanent (4) (5).

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What Causes A Stork Bite?

Stork bites are a type of vascular birthmark, which occur due to anomalies in the blood vessels (6). A stork bite may occur when a cluster of blood vessels (capillaries) underneath the skin remains dilated (stretched) (7). These birthmarks tend to darken when the baby cries or when the temperature rises. Stork bites may fade away when pressed.

The birthmark is cosmetic and does not require any specific medical diagnosis. A doctor will usually identify stork bites at birth through visual inspection alone.

Signs Of Stork Bite

Stork bite birthmark may be present at birth

A stork bite is not painful and does not cause any symptoms for the baby. The following are the signs of stork bite that parents may notice (2) (3).

  • Red or pink flat patch on the skin
  • Present at birth or may appear in the first few months after birth
  • Present on the forehead, back of the neck, eyelids, nose, upper lip, or other parts of the body
  • Tends to become darker when the baby cries, feels warm, or when straining
  • Could fade or disappear when pressed
  • Does not grow large and does not disappear and reappear

How Is A Stork Bite Different From Other Birthmarks?

There are several types of birthmarks. Below are the common ones and their differences (2).

  • Strawberry birthmark: It is also a type of vascular birthmark. These are also known as strawberry hemangiomas and are bright or dark red in color. They differ from stork bites due to their swollen appearance. The bumpy characteristic of the birthmark makes it resemble a strawberry, hence the name strawberry mark. Unlike a stork bite, a strawberry birthmark tends to grow larger, especially in the first six to 12 months of the baby’s life. They also stay for longer and may fade away between the ages of seven and nine years.
  • Port-wine stain birthmark:It is another type of vascular birthmark, which occurs due to dilated blood capillaries. Port-wine stains are different from stork bites since they usually do not disappear and may get darker and thicker with time. A port-wine stain will not fade or disappear when pressed. It may often occur on the face and neck. Port-wine stains affect less than 1% of newborns and, in rare instances, could be associated with some underlying problem.
Port-wine stain birthmark in babies
  • Moles, café-au-lait, and Mongolian spots: These are called pigmented birthmarks since they occur due to the aggregation of melanocytes or skin pigment cells. Pigmented birthmarks are brownish, bluish, or grayish in appearance compared to the reddish or pinkish appearance of stork bites. Moles tend to stay for longer while Mongolian spots fade away as the baby grows older. Café-au-lait spots may or may not fade over time.
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Are There Any Natural Treatments For Stork Bites?

According to Harvard Medical School, stork bites do not require treatment (1). These birthmarks do not cause any long-term discomfort or problems for the baby. Parents may consider methods to eliminate or lighten stork bites for cosmetic reasons.

The following are some natural treatments that may lighten stork bites and gradually eliminate them. There is no scientific evidence to back these treatments. Therefore, speak to a pediatrician before trying any of these methods.

  1. Olive oil:Olive oil is a natural moisturizer that smoothens the skin and lightens dark patches. Dip a cotton ball in olive oil and apply it to the birthmark in a circular motion for five minutes. Wash off with warm water and repeat this process four times a day.
Olive oil may help lighten dark patches
  1. Lemon juice: Lemon juice acts as a natural bleaching agent and can lighten dark patches on the skin. Dilute a few drops of lemon juice with water. Dip a cotton ball in diluted lemon juice and apply it to the stork bite in a circular motion. Wash with warm water. Do it once a day.
  1. Vitamin A: Vitamin A is usually prescribed for anti-aging and acne treatments, as it stimulates cell division and production of collagen. Cosmetic creams with vitamin A may eliminate blemishes and could lighten stork bites. You may apply vitamin A cream once a day to lighten stork bites.
  1. Vitamin E: Vitamin E has anti-oxidizing properties that can diminish the appearance of damaged skin. Aloe vera is a good source of vitamin E. You may apply a small quantity of pure aloe vera gel to stork bites twice a day to lighten the birthmarks.
  1. Cold compress: A cold compress helps retain skin moisture and may lighten the appearance of birthmarks. Wrap ice cubes in a towel or washcloth and gently place it on the stork bites twice or thrice a day. Never place ice cubes directly on the baby’s skin since it can cause discomfort.

Medical Treatment Of Stork Bites

Stork bites do not require treatment since they usually fade away by the baby’s second or third birthday. Parents may consider treatment for cosmetic reasons if the stork bite persists beyond the age of three years (7).

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Laser treatment is the recommended medical treatment for capillary malformations or anomalies, such as stork bites in babies (8). A pediatric dermatologist would use a laser to shrink the size of the dilated blood vessels and lighten the appearance of the stork bite. The laser treatment is painless and effective but may require multiple visits for the desired results.

Colleen, a mother of six, shares how her baby, Alexander’s, birthmark gradually disappeared by age six without any medical intervention. Alexander was born with a huge red birthmark all over his face. She says, “I was used to seeing stork bites on my other babies, but they were tiny on the eyelid or back of the neck. I was worried about his marks and asked around for what we could do about it.

“My midwife said it occurred because of the position his face was in as he grew in utero. The consensus was to just wait it out. My sister, a dermatologist, said that we could try a laser option but suggested waiting until he was a year old since it was a minor surgery. And so we waited… His birthday is In July, and I think even as the birthmark/stork bite was fading, it would sometimes be more visible when we spent time outside, or he got mad or overheated (i).” By six years, the birthmark faded almost completely.

How To Prevent Stork Bites?

There is no way to prevent birthmarks, including stork bites (1). If you spot stork bites on your baby, speak to a doctor who can examine it to determine if it is a birthmark and not a skin disorder. You should also inform the doctor if your baby’s birthmark bleeds, itches, or is painful.

The stork bite birthmarks are common among newborns and are not a cause for concern. These birthmarks usually appear on the back and neck and fade away as the baby grows. Since these birthmarks rarely cause any discomfort, there is no need for treatment. However, if the mark persists even after three years, a few parents may consider its removal for cosmetic purposes. A stork bite birthmark doesn’t spread and varies with other birthmarks. If you are unsure about the benign nature of the mark, you could always get it checked by a medical professional.

Key Pointers

  • A stork bite, medically known as nevus simplex and nevus flammeus nuchae, may occur when a cluster of blood vessels underneath the skin remains stretched.
  • The birthmark appears as a red or pink flat patch on the neck, forehead, eyelids, or some other places.
  • It usually lightens as the baby grows and seldom requires treatment.

Article written by Baby Plumbing

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