How Is Caput Succedaneum Treated?

Updated on October 20, 2020

Caput succedaneum describes the inflammation that occurs on an infant’s scalp shortly after birth. During delivery, especially for babies who are born head-first, the pressure the baby sustains while exiting the womb can cause scalp damage. This can cause caput succedaneum and other health issues. 

While caput succedaneum isn’t severe on its own, it could cause other problems with the baby’s health. These could become serious. 

Treatment for caput succedaneum is usually not necessary. Draining or attempting to drain the scalp could cause infections that will make the condition worse. The bruises from caput succedaneum can travel to the bilirubin, and this increases the chances of the baby getting jaundice. 

If jaundice is properly and promptly treated, it usually doesn’t pose a problem. However, if jaundice is not tended to, it could result in brain damage, and, in some cases, death. 

Risk Factors and Causes 

In some situations, caput succedaneum can happen if the mother’s delivery is lengthy or difficult. The risk of caput succedaneum is higher once the membranes are broken and the mother’s amniotic sac can no longer provide support for the baby’s head. The chances of caput succedaneum are higher if a doctor uses forceps or a vacuum extraction instrument to deliver the baby and uses the tools improperly or applies too much pressure. 

Caput succedaneum can also occur when the membranes rupture too quickly. This can happen as early as the 31st week of gestation. A mother can see if the membranes are ruptured during an ultrasound appointment. If the membranes break while the baby is still in the mother’s womb, the scalp may start swelling since there is no cushion or support for the baby’s head. 


Caput succedaneum is characterized by swelling just under the scalp’s skin, as well as color changes in the scalp or bruising. Inflammation is also present along the baby’s suture and midlines, and there can be a molding increase on the head that drastically changes the baby’s head shape. 

Formal testing is not necessary to diagnose caput succedaneum. However, a physician can observe the baby’s head, look for other physical symptoms, and assess the infant’s body to make an official diagnosis. 

Long-Term Effects 

Jaundice is one of the main long-term effects of caput succedaneum, but this symptom doesn’t pose a risk to the baby’s health if treated shortly after birth. Once the jaundice is treated, the swelling will go down in a few days, and the baby’s head shape and size will return to normal. 

If the medical staff doesn’t tend to the baby’s jaundice, long-term effects like kernicterus can occur. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that can cause cerebral palsy. This is one of the main reasons that many parents file lawsuits against hospitals or medical facilities if their babies have untreated caput succedaneum. Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that severely affects a child’s mental and physical development.

Kernicterus can also cause hearing loss in children, which is another reason parents may have a legal case. This form of brain damage has also been linked to infants who have a fixed upward gaze and poor development of the tooth enamel once the baby’s teeth start to grow in. 

If Your Baby Was Affected

Parents are usually confused and scared when they see that their baby has caput succedaneum. The baby’s head may be abnormally large, and parents will notice bulges around the scalp. This is normal for infants who have this condition. 

Since caput succedaneum usually occurs shortly after the baby is born, your doctor should respond to your concerns right away to make sure the baby doesn’t have any other health issues. Once the swelling goes down, the infant’s head will return to its natural shape. 

If you’re working with an attorney to get a settlement for your baby’s care, proving your birth injury case is the first step. Keep up with your medical records so you can provide evidence to your attorney. It’s best to file a case as soon as possible or the statute of limitations may run out. Please visit this list of things a birth injury lawyer can help with if you want more information.

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