You are in the delivery room. You have just given birth to your new baby. The doctor and nurse lay the newborn in your arms while they cut the cord. You look at your new baby and panic suddenly grips you. Your newborn's skin is dark, almost purple. You wonder what's wrong with your child and you voice your concerns to the medical staff. They assure you in a very calming manner, that this is perfectly normal.
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Many of us think that when a baby is born it will look like the babies that are born on television: All pink, cute and clean. Well, that is not quite how it happens. In fact, your baby might be a little on the homely side. After the traumatic journey of pushing through the birth canal, arriving all covered in a white cheesy-like fluid, and looking all bluish red, it's no wonder babies are not that cute when they arrive.
Babies are born with dark skin that is almost purple in color. This quickly changes to a bluish red as they begin to breathe. Because they have such an immature circulatory system, the oxygen that they are now breathing will take time to work its way through their body. As oxygen circulates, the bluish tint will fade and your newborn's skin will appear red to pink.
With every breath that your baby takes, oxygen is flowing through the blood stream forcing out the carbon dioxide that is causing your baby's skin to appear bluish red. According to the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, your newborn's skin should appear red to pink by the end of the first day. Hands and feet may stay a little bluish for awhile, but that is very common and should not cause you concern.
A crying newborn's skin will also appear darker red than a non crying baby's. This, again, is due to the lack of oxygen that is circulating throughout the body. The baby will be exhaling more while crying and taking in only short breaths. This is a perfectly normal situation and calming the newborn down will solve the problem and allow oxygen to circulate once more.
There may be a few other reasons your newborn's skin is dark upon arrival. When babies are prematurely born, their circulatory system is extremely immature and they might even need to be put on a ventilator to help circulate oxygen. If newborns are cold, they will appear bluish. Race and ethnic background also play a major role in skin darkness. Finally, the health of your newborn can determine skin color.