Caput Succedaneum In Babies: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

It may occur when a baby’s head is squeezed and passed through the birth canal during labor.

Written by Dr Bisny T. Joseph • 

Caput succedaneum in newborns is the swelling of the baby’s scalp soon after birth. This swelling could indicate a complicated delivery. Your baby’s doctor may check for any signs of brain injury since a difficult delivery may also cause oxygen deprivation to the brain.

Swelling in the scalp and other birth-related injuries may occur because of the pressure exerted by the birth canal on the baby’s head during the birthing process. Although caput succedaneum is not a life-threatening ailment, it may cause apprehensions in parents. Also, the baby may have slight discomfort, and some babies may develop jaundice.

This post acquaints you with the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and complications of caput succedaneum in babies.

Causes Of Caput Succedaneum

The following factors may increase the risk of caput succedaneum in babies (1).

  • The most common cause of caput succedaneum is a long and difficult delivery. Usually, a baby’s head is not protected by the amniotic sac after the membranes have already ruptured. If delivery is delayed after the amniotic sac rupture, the chances of caput succedaneum are higher than usual.
  • Early rupture of the amniotic membrane may even cause swelling of the head in utero due to lack of cushioning. This is noticeable during a prenatal ultrasound.
  • It is usually more common during vertex or cephalic delivery, where the baby’s head emerges first.
  • Babies born through C-section may also develop caput since the baby’s head is susceptible to external pressure.
  • Macrosomia, a condition where a full-term or post-term baby is larger than average for their gestational age, could be at a higher risk due to their large head size.
  • The use of forceps or vacuum to assist delivery may also result in caput succedaneum in some cases. This may often happen if more pressure is applied during extraction or the techniques are incorrect.

Irrespective of the cause of scalp edema in the newborn, it usually does not cause any significant problem on its own. Pediatricians may monitor the baby for any bruising associated with caput since it may result in jaundice.

Signs And Symptoms Of Caput Succedaneum

You may notice the following signs and symptoms if your baby has caput succedaneum (2).

  • Swelling of the scalp (most common symptom)
  • Color changes of the scalp
  • Bruising of the scalp
  • Scalp swelling across the suture lines
  • Increased molding(abnormal shape) of the head
  • Swelling on both sides of the scalp

In most babies, caput succedaneum may occur in the part of the head that first emerges from the mother’s birth canal. These symptoms can also be present in other conditions, so you may seek an expert examination to confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnosis Of Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum can be diagnosed through physical examination and evaluation of the signs and symptoms. No specific test or diagnostic procedure are required for the diagnosis. However, if the pediatrician wants to exclude the possibility of other conditions, such as cephalohematoma, hydrocephalus, and skull fractures, they may order further tests.

Although cephalohematoma has similar causes, it is usually diagnosed based on the location and type of bleeding. In Cephalohematoma, the blood is collected in the skull’s periosteum (outer layer of the skull bone) and not along the suture lines. It is a rare condition.

Treatment For Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum does not usually require any treatment and resolves on its own within a few days (3). Trying to drain the scalp swelling by poking may result in infections.

If the baby has bruising due to caput succedaneum, the risk of developing jaundice increases. Pediatricians may prescribe medication to avoid jaundice and its complications, such as brain damage or neurologic deficits.

Complications Of Caput Succedaneum

Jaundice may emerge due to bruising in caput succedaneum. Untreated jaundice may lead to severe complications, such as Kernicterus, where the body has very high bilirubin levels. Kernicterus may cause the following damages.

  • Hearing loss
  • Upward gaze
  • Poor development of the enamel of the teeth

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is caput succedaneum normal in newborns?

Yes. Caput succedaneum is a common condition among newborns (1).

2. How common is caput succedaneum?

The prevalence of caput succedaneum in babies falls between 1.8% to 33.6% (4).

3. Can you detect caput succedaneum early?

Yes. Caput succedaneum due to a ruptured amniotic sac in pregnancy may be detectable during a prenatal ultrasound (5).

4. Is caput succedaneum serious?

No. Caput succedaneum is not considered a serious condition as it usually resolves on its own after about a month post-delivery (1).

Caput succedaneum in newborns results in significantly big heads due to swelling shortly after birth. This swelling can be caused by various factors, including birthing difficulty, vertex or cephalic delivery, cesarean delivery, and various conditions, such as macrosomia and early rupture of the amniotic membrane. However, this is not a cause for concern. Since caput succedaneum is visible immediately after birth and can be studied during the hospital stay, pediatricians may examine and act immediately. Most newborns heal entirely without difficulties or long-term consequences. However, bruising in the caput succedaneum might cause jaundice in newborns.

Key Pointers

  • Caput succedaneum isn’t a cause for concern but may cause slight discomfort to babies.
  • Long and difficult delivery, premature amniotic membrane rupture, and forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery are some of its causes.
  • Scalp swelling, bruising, and change of scalp color are common symptoms.
  • Caput succedaneum requires no specific tests or treatment curse; it usually resolves itself in most cases.


1. Caput Succedaneum; Birth Injury Help Center
2. Caput Succedaneum; MedlinePlus; US National Library Of Medicine
3. Caput Succedaneum; The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
4. Caput Succedaneum; Science Direct
5. Caput succedaneum; Mount Sinai
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