THERE are many kinds of birth marks. True birth marks will not vanish with time. Blue patches (Mongolian spots) are temporary accumulations of pigment, usually seen in darker skin races, which disappear over time. They have nothing to do with "mongolism" (Down syndrome) and should not be confused with bruising. Red marks caused by pressure during the delivery process are only temporary and usually vanish in a few days.
Peeling of the skin is common during the first few days of life. This usually occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, but may also develop on the scalp. Peeling of the skin is not an indication of poor hygiene and should not be considered dandruff. An extremely thick layer of peeling on the head is called cradle cap. If this problem really bothers you, your physician may recommend an ointment to stop the peeling.
Babies get many types of skin spots that have a variety of colors depending on the infant's natural pigmentation. Most of these spots disappear spontaneously within several weeks and no treatment (or concern) is necessary.
Most babies sweat extensively around the head and neck. This should be of no concern unless the baby shows other signs of illness. Carefully washing the hair and skin will prevent irritation of the skin.
Passage of the mother's hormones across the placenta can cause the genital organs of both male and female infants to appear red, inflamed and larger than normal. This condition will subside in time.
A newborn male may not have his testicles in the scrotal sac at birth. The testicles develop in the abdomen and occasionally do not migrate down into their normal position by the time the child is born. If the physician is able to "milk down" the testicle into the scrotum, this indicates that later it will descend into its normal position. A true undescended testicle cannot be successfully milked down.
A tight foreskin around the penis is normal. Do not be concerned if you cannot retract it. Loosening will occur during the first few years of life.
Vaginal bleeding or a clear or whitish discharge is a normal occurrence in baby girls. It results from the mother's hormones passing across the placenta and subsides within a few days.
During the first few days of life, blood may appear in the stools. This results from the baby swallowing the mother's blood from the birth canal during delivery. The urine contains substances known as urates which may make the urine appear red. This should not be of concern, but you may want to keep the diaper and show it to your physician.
Virgil Williams and Ron Eisenberg are staff physicians at Highland General Hospital in Oakland. Please send questions to them in care of Bay Area Living, P.O. Box 10367, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Questions cannot be answered individually; however, some will be discussed in future columns.
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