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 fluid in 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.
Symptoms may include:
No treatment is needed. The problem most often 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) if bruising is involved.
Most of the time, the problem is noticed right after birth. You do not need to call your provider unless you have other questions.
Balest AL, Riley MM, Bogen DL. Neonatology. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Nowalk AJ, eds. Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 2.
Mangurten HH, Puppala BI, Prazad PA. Birth injuries. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 30.
Smith RP. Caput Succedaneum. In: Smith RP, ed. Netter's Obstetrics and Gynecology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 219.
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