30 January

Colour of my baby

My maid came up to me and asked me “ Madam - My sister-in-law is pregnant and she wants to make sure she has a fair child. What should she do, so she can have a fair child?The above thought of having a fair and beautiful child goes through every pregnant woman, especially in India. Somehow we, as a society give a lot of importance to the colour of a person.

Even in Europe during the period of colonization, the color of the person was one way of differentiating the upper class from the lower class. People with dark skin were thought to be inferior and subordinate to the light-skinned invaders. Even in India, light-skinned people were considered to be higher caste and the poorer classes worked outdoors and got the darker skin from exposure to the sun. Tanning of the skin is the oxidation of melanin pigment on exposure to UV light.

Skin color basically depends upon the pigment melanin in the skin. Melanin pigment is controlled by many genes. Human skin color is a polygenic trait meaning multiple genes are responsible for the expression of the color. Many human traits like height, weight, and personality of a person are polygenic, and sometimes the environment also plays a significant role in either expressing the genes or suppressing the genes.  The pigment melanin is passed on to the baby by both the parents through their genes and this determines the skin color of the baby. The genes are responsible for the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by the skin in cells called melanocytes and it is the main determinant of the skin color of darker-skinned humans.


History of Skin color

It is thought that when early humans lived in Africa they were exposed to Ultraviolet radiation and the dark skin with melanocytes evolved to protect the body from harmful effects of UV radiation. Melanin is thought to block the UV penetration, which otherwise could be detrimental to health. As man began to migrate up north to colder places the exposure to Ultraviolet decreased and slowly body evolved and over generations people became fair-skinned as the pigmentation decreased.

Another reason for the decreasing melanin in fair-skinned people is that too much Melanin is thought to lower the synthesis of Vitamin D. So if the melanin content were to remain high in people who have migrated to the Northern part where already the sunlight is very less, the people would become severely deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a very essential nutrient for the body and is responsible for strong bones, immunity to name just a few functions. Evolution thus played a role and through many generations, the people who migrated began losing the melanin content and became more fair skinned. Another added advantage of this was, that people who are fair skinned and who lived in the colder regions where sunlight is lesser, were still able to make enough Vitamin D from the Sunlight.  Sunlight is needed for the conversion of Vitamin D present in our skin to its active form which helps in calcium absorption. So it was actually a health benefit in reduced sunlight if there were limited sources of vitamin D. For the same reason, females tend to be more light-skinned than males, as they need to make more Vitamin D and calcium during pregnancy to support and supply nutrition to the baby. And the body can utilize calcium from the body only in the presence of vitamin D.


So to answer the question what can I do so my baby is fair? ...Nothing much. If both the parents are fair, there is more chance of the baby being fair and if the parents are dark, there is very less chance of the baby being fair. The skin can adapt melanin production to sunlight exposure. So if your baby is exposed to sunlight regularly and for a long time then his skin may get darker and in times when he is hardly exposed to sunlight he may appear fairer or close to his original skin color which was determined during his conception. Newborn may appear pink as the skin is initially transparent and thin and blood vessels are seen through it, but as days pass the melanin pigment is produced and the skin gets a darker shade.  But, whether the baby is fair or not, it is your little baby, As long as he or she is healthy be thankful..Every baby is a beautiful creation of life.

Last modified on Friday, 03 August 2018 16:08
Dr Padma

Dr Padma is a Family care physician and is the Founder and CEO of MedHealthTV.


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