What do Parents Need to Know About Caput Succedaneum?

New parents often envision the perfectness of their newborn after delivery when visualizing their family’s new addition. However, they may experience shock, fear, and surprise when the infant is presented with a misshapen head. It can be an alarming sight when this phenomenon is unexpected.

Newborns may endure extensive pressure to the head during birth. This pressure results in a typical birth issue known as caput succedaneum, or caput. While this phenomenon is common in birth, awareness of what to expect when a newborn experiences caput succedaneum will help you recognize when there may be the presence of a significant injury. Speak to our caput succedaneum attorney in Portland today to discuss the details of your unique case.

Understanding Caput Succedaneum

The first glimpses of a child may consist of a cone-shaped head, causing extreme anxiousness and concern. This coned shape results from swelling resulting from fluid that collects between the skin and connective tissue layer resting above the skull. The medical term for this puffy cap on a newborn’s head is caput succedaneum.

While it may look alarming, normal instances of caput succedaneum are not harmful and do not impact an infant’s brain. This benign condition results from an infant passing through the birth canal and experiencing normal pressure. While this compression is common and generally corrects itself within a few days or weeks, more pronounced cases resolve within a few weeks.

Causes of Caput Succedaneum

A fetus’s skull is made of plates that are not completely fused, allowing for the skull’s shape to shift as the head passes through the birth canal. An infant’s head is often notably oversized compared to their body. While caput succedaneum can occur during cesarean section birth, standard vaginal deliveries compress the skull’s flexible plates, which may overlap or condense to allow the infant to pass through the birth canal.

While this shape of the head is primarily the result of uneventful vaginal delivery caused by pressure from the uterus and vaginal wall, a prolonged delivery can lead to caput succedaneum. Additionally, fetal macrosomia, or high birth weight, can lead to this swelling resulting from delivery. Deliveries that extend past the due date may contribute to macrosomia and result in caput succedaneum.

Additional risk factors for a newborn developing caput succedaneum include the assistance of forceps or vacuum extraction to facilitate the passage of a fetus through the birth canal. A fetus also drops in preparation for birth, but dropping earlier can lead to caput succedaneum. The amniotic sac breaking early and releasing the fluid may also result in caput.

Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum

Most new parents initially notice the puffiness on top of the head. The soft spot at the crown may appear swollen. This swelling may stretch across the middle of the scalp. This area of swelling is typically the first to pass through the birth canal.

Treating Caput Succedaneum

Passing time is the treatment for caput succedaneum. Time allows the infant’s skull to resume its normal shape after delivery and the swelling to diminish. Mild soreness may accompany this occurrence, but it does not result in severe pain.

With time and likely a few short days after delivery, an infant’s head will take the shape most parents envision. Speaking with the doctor about concerns or when puffiness lingers can help a new parent gauge any risks or concerns.

Complications That May Result From Caput Succedaneum

While this phenomenon will likely be self-correcting, some complications may accompany caput succedaneum. Most new parents are diligent in noticing changes a newborn experiences. Contact your child’s pediatrician to prevent long-term implications or complications.


Keep an eye out for skin bruising that may lead to necrosis. Necrosis results when the tissue in the swollen area loses blood flow and dies. Necrosis may cause alopecia, scarring, or infection.

Newborn Jaundice

Bruising also has the potential to raise the blood’s bilirubin levels in a newborn, leading to jaundice. Newborn jaundice is apparent in a newborn’s eyes and skin, causing a yellowing discoloration. This discoloration is most likely the result of the lack of maturity in an infant’s liver. Light therapy is the standard treatment for jaundice.


When left untreated, newborn jaundice can create a severe and even life-threatening situation known as kernicterus. Excessive bilirubin in a newborn’s blood can lead to its invasion of the brain and severe injury. Kernicterus may result in permanent brain damage.

Birth Injuries That May Resemble Caput Succedaneum

Puffiness and swelling are primary indicators of caput succedaneum but may also indicate birth trauma or injury. Cephalohematoma also results from using vacuum extractions and forceps, like caput. However, cephalohematoma is differentiated by its location between the skull bone’s periosteum and the outside of the skull.

Blood from broken capillaries resulting from the use of instrumentation during birth pools in this area on the exterior of the skull. One way to determine the difference in swelling is to notice where the puffiness occurs. Caput succedaneum appears at the midline on the head between the left and right portions of the brain.

Cephalohematoma will generally not cross this midline. This birth injury will often resolve itself within two weeks to six months. Monitoring for hyperbilirubinemia is necessary.


Subgaleal bleeding is caused by trauma below the epicranial aponeurosis extending over the upper portion of the skull, consisting of three layers. These layers work together to support a muscle in the skull, controlling facial movement. Seizures and mortality are common with this type of hemorrhage.

Subdural hemorrhage may occur between the arachnoid space and the dura. The dura is a lining in the skull surrounding the brain. Blood leaks between these layers during a subdural hematoma or hemorrhage.

Blood tests may rule out other factors leading to hemorrhage. Imaging procedures, such as a CT scan, can identify internal injuries to small blood vessels throughout the skull.

Oregon Caput Succedaneum Injury Birth Trauma Attorneys

While most instances of swelling or puffiness that appear in a newborn’s head after birth are the result of a normal birth process, this swelling may also indicate a birth injury. Immediately seeking medical care reduces the incidents of long-term damage. Let our team of Portland birth injury attorneys help you identify care leading to your child’s injury.