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What IS That?

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A mom explains what it's like to have a child with hemangioma.


Guest Blogger Edmond's Mom: In the blur of my first experience of childbirth ... a room full of equipment, tubes, needles, keeping an eye on my darling weak-kneed husband, a half dozen nurses (where the hell IS my doctor anyway?!) and now 12 hours later ... a new baby girl! Red, wet, misshapen head ... we listened intently for a cry. Whew! You barely have a moment to look at the lil' bugger over before nurses whisk her away for weighing, measuring and more crying! Finally, finally a chance to be sure that every thing is in place: 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, two ears, a cute little nose then ... what, what IS that?

I tried to be as calm as a "fresh from childbirth" woman can be. I didn't want to send my already woozy husband over the edge with the look of panic, but I kept thinking: "what IS that?" -- a large bruise on her shin, a nickel-sized flat red mark behind her ear AND a raised peanut sized red thing on the side of her head. Can someone please tell me what THAT is and how did it get on my baby? My head filled instantly with questions: Will they grow? Will more appear? This was not on my reading check list. I was not prepared to reassure my husband, giddy grandparents, friends or myself what it was or if she was fine.

My pediatrician assured me it was nothing more than a hemangioma. A what? A hemangioma. Just a birthmark that appears as a bright red patch or a nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin. Nothing to worry about. They usually go away within a few years. We will just watch it. She will be fine. I was relieved, but still a little uneasy. She was happy, healthy and thankfully didn't have that red bump square on the tip of her nose.

As the weeks went on, it was all business as usual -- diapers, nursing bras, laundry, visitors and the occasional question, "What IS that?" Always politely asked, well almost.

There was the occasional uncomfortable pause, someone afraid to ask. There was the uncensored nine-year-old boy who got under my skin with incessant questions and asked to touch them. But as a parent, a NEW parent, we had to decide how we would react. Would we be weird? Could we be calm? Overly protective about something relatively small? Our vote was for no biggie. Just a thing. We are watching it, but it will go away in time. No biggie. Our reaction seemed to be contagious. It was looked at, a teensy bit of medical explanation, then forgotten about. No biggie.

Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson weighs in:
This mom is right-on in many ways. First of all, hemangiomas are quite common. Most don't appear at birth, though; rather they tend pop up over the first 3 to 6 months of life. At first they grow but after a few months -- quite suddenly -- most stop growing and shrink down. Hemangiomas are almost always benign, so doctors tend to be quite casual about them and parents learn to do the same pretty quickly.

There are some infants with large hemangiomas -- I've seen a one the size of a dollar bill. But this isn't at all the norm -- most are tiny (pinpoint) or, at biggest, the size of a quarter.

If the hemangioma is disfiguring or if it is really big or if it is in an area where it the skin rubs something and can break easily (I had one patient with a hemangioma on her shoulder and she often irritated the area while moving in her sleep), then a dermatologist or plastic surgeon can use a laser to shrink it down. But most of the time -- I mean probably 99% of the time, maybe more -- we do nothing except watch them shrink away on their own.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
mama_chita November 17, 2008, 9:24 AM

My (now 19-month-old) daughter has an hemangioma on the roof of her mouth. Since it is in her mouth, she sees an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist. He explained that the typical ‘cycle’ for most hemangiomas is that they grow most ‘aggressively’ during the first year, then might continue to grow or could ‘stabilize’ through the second year, but then they typically begin shrinking. In my daughter’s case, it seems to be a little smaller and less-red now, than it was through her first year.

cg November 17, 2008, 10:39 AM

my 4 yr. old has an hemangioma that we named “herman”( i’m one of those people who have to name everything). we were really worried when she was an infant but now it’s shrunk, not in size or diameter but it’s not as full and is quite flat, so we don’t worry about it. i realize this one would natrually get more attention cause it’s on the baby’s face and my daughter’s is on her chest. so i hope everything turns out alright for your lil pumpkin- she is adorable regardless.

MA November 17, 2008, 12:44 PM

My daughter also has one in her hairline. After it started growing, it was big and puffy, and I was so afraid that kids would make fun of her in school. Kids and adults would ask what it was, and it would almost make me cringe. I felt so bad. Luckily, It did start to get smaller (it was a cluster of three actually and one was bigger than the other two). Now, it is flat, pale, and hidden by her hair! :)

birdsfly November 17, 2008, 1:17 PM

My three year old has a cavernous hemangioma (raised) on his forearm near his elbow that takes up much of his forearm. It showed up the day of his three month check up and will hopefully get smaller eventually. It doesn’t bother him, but it also hasn’t seemed to get much smaller, just him getting bigger.

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