Caput succedaneum is swelling of the scalp in a newborn. It is most often brought on by pressure from the uterus or vaginal wall during a head-first (vertex) delivery.
A caput succedaneum is more likely to form during a long or hard delivery. It is more common after the membranes have broken. This is because the amniotic sac is no longer providing a cushion for the baby's head. Vacuum extraction done during a difficult birth can also increase the chances of a caput succedaneum.
A caput succedaneum may be detected by prenatal ultrasound even before labor or delivery begins. It has been found as early as 31 weeks of pregnancy. Very often, this is due to an early rupture of the membranes or too little amniotic fluid. It is less likely that a caput will form if the membranes stay intact.
The doctor will look at the swelling to confirm that it is a caput succedaneum. No other testing is needed.
No treatment is needed. The problem usually goes away on its own within a few days.
Complete recovery can be expected. The scalp will go back to a normal shape.
Complications may include a yellow color to the skin (jaundice).
Most of the time, the problem is noticed right after birth. You do not need to call your doctor unless you have other questions.
Mangurten HH. Birth Injuries. In: Fanaroff AA, Martin RJ, eds. Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine: Diseases of the Fetus and Infant. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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