The NHS website explains: ‘About one in every ten babies has a haemangioma. They are more common in girls, in premature babies, low birth weight babies and multiple births, such as twins.’
Beatrice is a girl, tick. Beatrice was premature, tick. Beatrice had a slightly low birth weight, tick. AND, guess what, she is a twin…tick. Bingo. Full house. So, I guess it was no surprise that she started developing a haemangioma.
When Beatrice was born all I can remember thinking was that she had the cutest little face and the biggest blue eyes. Yes, she was a little crumpled and covered in a strange substance, but she had been sharing a watery home with her twin brother for 8 months…so no surprise really. To us, her and her brother Francis were perfect.
Baby haemangioma. ‘A haemangioma is a collection of small blood vessels that form a lump under the skin. They are sometimes called ‘strawberry marks’ because the surface of a haemangioma may look a bit like the surface of a strawberry’ (NHS Website). You can see the beginning of the strawberry mark here on Beatrice’s right nostril. It starts as atiny red mark, but will then grow rapidly over the next few months.
What is a Haemangioma?
A haemangioma is a collection of small blood vessels that form a lump under the skin. As it creates a red, bumpy effect they are more commonly referred to as ‘strawberry marks’. Although not obvious at first, once they appear, a haemangioma will grow rapidly for the first three months. It is uncommon for a haemangioma to grow after 6-10 months of age, when it will have a ‘rest period’ before starting to shrink. They can grow anywhere on the body, but are very common on the face and neck.
We noticed straight away that Beatrice had a tiny pinkish mark along her right nostril, but we just assumed it was a small birth mark. It looked quite cute actually. It made her unique.
However, as the first few weeks went by, we noticed that this tiny pink mark began to grow and change in colour. At her 6 week check up our doctor noticed it straight away and remarked: ‘Oh, she has a strawberry’.
A strawberry? A what?
We were completely unaware of what this was and what it would mean for Beatrice. The doctor, who happened to be specialised in dermatology, explained that we should be prepared for it to grow quite rapidly in size over the next few weeks, with the reassurance that it will eventually disappear in time.
Baby haemangiomas will grow rapidly in the first few months. Around 6-10 months it will have a ‘rest period’ and then will begin to shrink. It is important to keep finger nails short and smooth to avoid damaging the skin of the haemangioma.
How Do You Treat a Haemangioma?
As haemangiomas eventually disappear in time, treatment is not usually needed. The skin is extremely delicate from the protruding blood vessels so it just needs looking after. It’s important to make sure that finger nails are kept short and smooth to avoid any potential damage to the skin. (I think it is necessary to note that if a haemangioma is knocked and begins to bleed, medical assistance should be sought after as it will most likely bleed profusely).
However, in cases like Beatrice’s , extra intervention was required.
As the weeks went by, we noticed that not only was the mark growing outwards, but actually inside her nostril too. This concerned us greatly as it seemed to be closing it over. This threw us newbie parents into a state of panic as young babies are only able to breathe through their noses…and one of Beatrice’s was closing over…! Scary.
Fortunately, our doctor assisted us in getting treatment quite quickly. Although we have been referred to the hospital (and am awaiting for the appointment), we have been able to start treatment now. We have been prescribed a beta-blocker (which have shown to shrink haemangiomas) to apply to the strawberry twice a day. We began her treatment at the beginning of this year. Although it will be many months before real improvements will be obvious, we feel really reassured that Beatrice has started her treatment.
Haemangiomas normally disappear by the age of 7 years of age and therefore do not require treatment. There are some cases however where treatment is needed due to the placement of the mark.
Living With A Haemangioma
Having a child with a haemangioma has been an interesting experience to say the least. Beatrice has the most fabulously fierce personality. She completely knows her own mind and will be sure to let you know what she wants! (whichis so interesting as her brother is the complete opposite: placid and calm).
I have never wanted her strawberry to define her. Yet when people meet her for the first time, it is an elephant in the room. You feel obliged to explain what it is as you see people’s eyes curiously scan over her bumpy, red mark. I don’t know if this sounds weird but I feel more awkward not mentioning it and then people feeling a little unsure whether to mention it themselves. So I find it easier to say what it is so it’s out there. It’s a strange feeling of making others feel at ease. Once it’s mentioned people are obviously very understanding and I think appreciate you doing so.
The oddest experience I have had with Beatrice’s mark is having strangers approach me in the street to ask what it is. Yes. You read that right. Odd, isn’t it? I think so anyway. I used to be really sensitive about it but have learnt to let it go over my head. I think people are just genuinely intrigued by it. I guess this also highlights although haemangiomas are quite common, not many people are aware of them. If we can use this as an opportunity to help educate people about them then I guess we will have done a good job.
We do not notice the strawberry mark anymore. We only see her beautiful, cute little face with her gorgeous blue eyes. Although I guess her haemangioma makes her fabulously unique.
What Are Your Experiences Of Haemangiomas?
Do you have a child with a haemangioma? Are your experiences similar to ours, or do they differ? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch at foxfairytwinsblog.com