Caput Succedaneum

Abnormalities that affect newborns can be extremely distressing to parents. There are common defects that occur within the infant’s head. While caput succedaneum pronunciation may be challenging, it is one of those defects that need to be taken as serious as it may sound and be examined within the shortest period possible.

Caput Succedaneum Definition

Caput succedaneum is a medical term that describes the swelling beneath a newborn’s scalp. It appears shortly after the delivery and occurs as a result of pressure from the uterus or the vaginal walls, during head-first delivery. Although it can cause slight discomfort and additional health issues, caput succedaneum is not a life threatening condition and does not cause critical complications.

caput succedaneum pic

The diagram shows the exact locations of the scalps hematomata in relation to the scalps layers.

Caput Succedaneum vs Cephalohematoma

caput succedaneum vs cephalohematoma

Diagram showing the difference between (A)Caput Succedaneum and (B)Cephalohematoma

Caput Succedaneum should never be confused with Cephalohematoma. Both conditions are related to the pressure applied on the babies head during delivery.

Cephalohematoma refers to the traumatic hematoma that affects the periosteum of the infants head. It is associated with a collection of blood from broken blood vessels that builds up under the newborn’s skull.

  • Just like caput succedaneum, cephalohematoma doesn’t pose the risk to the brain and is harmless, as it affects the outside part of the skull.
  • Cephalohematoma symptoms are unnoticeable compared to caput succedaneum symptoms because they are internal. However, the lump or bump that appears on one side of the infant’s head is often located on the side or back of the head.
  • The risk it poses to the infant includes anemia, jaundice and unnatural bulging of the newborns head.
  • Even though cephalohematoma can disappear over time and heal after a couple of months, it is recommended to have its symptoms diagnosed by a medical professional.
  • In severe cases, medical professionals may drain the collection of blood that is built upon the infant’s head. If the build up happens to be so large that it results in lowering the newborns red blood cells count, then doctors may opt for transfusion.
  • If doctors suspect a skull fracture, x-rays may be done. Most fractures heal over time with no problem. Deep fractures may need additional treatment.
  • A light therapy is recommended if jaundice is severe enough.

Caput Succedaneum Symptoms

caput succedaneum

Caput Succedaneum Picture – Diagram showing A) Movement of Cranial bones during labor. B) Cranial bones return to their proper placement in 2 to 3 days. C) Infant exhibiting molding.

  • Caput succedaneum cross suture lines. The skull of an infant is made up of bones that are fused to become one. The points where the bones meet are referred to as sutures. Swelling beneath the scalp, may extend and overlap at the sutures.
  • The pressure on the skull may lead to swellings on both side of the newborn’s scalp
  • Swellings and bruises of the baby’s face, if she was born with the face first
  • Soft and puffy swelling on the infant’s scalp
  • Color change on the scalp swelling area
  • Caput succedaneum may be associated with increased molding of the newborns head.


There are very high chances of developing jaundice. Jaundice normally occurs due to the excess amount of the bilirubin, and it results in yellow coloration of the eyes and skin. The bruising which may be associated with caput succedaneum is the main cause of jaundice.

Caput Succedaneum Causes

The main cause of caput succedaneum results from prolonged or hard delivery processes. Its formation is common just after the breaking of the membranes. This is due to the fact that the fluid contained in the amniotic sac can no longer provide the cushion for the babies head. There are various reasons that cause long deliveries.

  • The mother’s pelvis may have inadequate proportion such that the babies head is not able to travel through the birth canal with ease. The smaller pelvis can lead to more difficult and longer delivery as more pressure will be placed on the child’s head during labor.
  • Medical malpractices by a doctor or staff, in times of delivery, may increase the chances of caput succedaneum. If the doctor takes a long time to decide to perform a C-section and the baby either delivered incorrectly or slowly, undue pressure may exist on the babies head as well as the baby’s body.
  • The size of the baby may also result in the long delivery process. Delivery of large babies may be difficult and can result in caput succedaneum
  • The chances of caput succedaneum can also be increased by vacuum extraction, normally done during difficult births. The use of vacuum suction or forceps may put more pressure on the infant’s head and leads to some slight swellings afterward.

Caput Succedaneum Treatment

  • Caput Succedaneum can be detected by the prenatal ultrasound. This can happen even before the delivery process can begin. This can take place as early as the 31st Week of pregnancy. The early detection is made possible by the presence of too little amniotic fluid or an early rupture of membranes. It is unlikely for caput succedaneum to form in case the membranes stay intact.
  • No formal caput succedaneum testing or caput succedaneum treatment is needed for diagnosis. Attempting to dry the scalp may increase the risk of getting infected. The swelling goes away just on its own after a few days, and you will be able to notice an unusually pointed appearance on the baby’s head. Complete recovery of the newborn’s scalp can be expected to happen. The scalp will regain its normal shape.
  • The main risk of caput succedaneum, jaundice, should be treated in time just to ensure that further complications and problems are avoided. However, if it is left undiagnosed, or untreated, it may lead to severe medical issues, which may cause brain damage and even death.


The management stage involves observation as the swellings disappear over time. Complete and fast recovery process occurs after a few days. If the newborn’s scalp contour has changed in color, the normal contour will be regained over time. The newborn will often be irritable and therefore, you may need some analgesia for its headache. The use of analgesia should be kept to the minimum for the first few days.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here