Caput succedaneum can produce alarming symptoms in your newborn. Unfortunately, a doctor’s failure to provide reasonable medical care to you and your baby can cause the health condition.
But just as often, caput succedaneum happens naturally and goes away without treatment over a few days.
Here is some information about the causes and symptoms of caput succedaneum.
How Caput Succedaneum Happens
Caput succedaneum is a swelling of your baby’s scalp shortly after birth. Pressure on the baby’s head during delivery causes fluid to build up underneath the scalp.
Caput succedaneum is not a bruise, as the swelling results from collected body fluids rather than blood.
In mild cases, it can produce a lump on your baby’s head. In severe cases, your baby’s head may look puffy or even pointed.
Caput succedaneum does not threaten your baby’s life or health.
Causes of Caput Succedaneum
Caput succedaneum can result from natural pressure on the scalp from the vaginal walls or cervix. It can also result from instruments used during delivery.
Some risk factors for caput succedaneum include:
In a vertex delivery, your baby’s head first descends into the birth canal first. The vertex position, rather than a breech position, is the preferred position for a natural birth.
But when the baby rests in the vertex position, the baby’s head can get compressed during delivery. If the doctor uses instruments like forceps or vacuum suction tools, the baby’s head will bear the force of the instruments. In some cases, these forces can cause caput succedaneum.
The longer the baby sits in the birth canal, the more pressure the baby’s head bears. If your labor lasts a long time, your baby’s scalp can show signs of caput succedaneum.
Loss of Amniotic Fluid
When your amniotic membranes break, your baby loses the cushioning from your body during delivery and birth. Your pelvic bones, vaginal walls, and cervix can compress the baby’s head. The compression can cause edema in the child’s scalp, characteristic of caput succedaneum.
Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum
Caput succedaneum has one visible symptom. Your baby’s scalp will puff away from the skull. The puffiness will appear shortly after birth as body fluids collect between the scalp and the periosteum, a membrane surrounding your baby’s skull.
This puffiness can look different in different babies. For some children, the puffiness can look like a bump on the head. In other babies, it can look like their entire head is swollen.
The puffiness can cross from one side of the baby’s head to the other. Doctors often use the size and location of the puffiness to diagnose caput succedaneum. Other conditions usually remain on just one side of the baby’s head.
It will not feel hard like a cyst. Instead, the puffiness will feel spongy. Your finger may leave a dent when you press on it.
Over time, the puffiness will usually disappear without treatment.
Complications of Caput Succedaneum
Caput succedaneum can produce complications in some babies. Potential complications include:
Some babies with caput succedaneum will also have a cephalohematoma. Similar to caput succedaneum, a cephalohematoma is a pocket under your baby’s scalp filled with blood.
It can look like a spongy lump on your baby’s head, similar to caput succedaneum. It will not look bruised. But it will solidify as the blood clots and hardens over time. After a few weeks, it will disappear.
In rare cases, caput succedaneum will lead to alopecia. This will appear as a ring around your baby’s head where hair will not grow.
Birth Injuries and Caput Succedaneum
But caput succedaneum can signify other birth injuries. If a doctor did something to prolong your labor or used instruments to aid in the delivery due to a medical error, caput succedaneum can provide evidence of malpractice.