Causes & Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is the swelling of an infant’s scalp, usually appearing shortly after delivery. It is most often caused by:

  • A prolonged or difficult delivery
  • Prolonged pressure from the mother’s vaginal walls or dilated cervix on the infant’s head
  • Excessive pulling during the delivery
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Misuse of vacuum extraction or forceps during an assisted delivery
  • Inappropriate delivery techniques

The soft, underdeveloped skull of an infant or fetus makes them extremely vulnerable to any kind of injury. While the fetus is still developing inside their mother’s womb, their primary form of protection comes from the amniotic fluid sacs. If they prematurely burst, there won’t be a cushion in place to properly protect them from bumping up against your body. While the symptoms of caput succedaneum generally appear shortly after the delivery, doctors can detect it as early as 31 weeks into a pregnancy.

The main symptom of caput succedaneum is the swelling of the infant’s scalp. The swelling can present on one side or the other, and in some cases it can extend over the midline of the scalp. In some cases there can be some bruising or discoloration, and the infant’s head may be slightly pointed once the swelling goes down. This is caused by the excess pressure placed on the bones of the infant’s head, and is referred to as “molding.”

Caput succedaneum should clear up on its own within a week or so after the infant’s birth. If the infant’s head remains slightly pointed after the birth, this should go away over time as well. Because the infant’s bones in their head aren’t fused yet, they can move a considerable amount and heal in the proper shape.

The swelling or bruising present in caput succedaneum can increase the risk of bruising or jaundice in your infant. According to the Mayo Clinic this should clear up without treatments within two or three weeks. In some cases however, untreated jaundice can lead to more serious health problems, so it’s important for your doctor to keep an eye on the symptoms, and potentially perform blood tests if it doesn’t clear up within a few weeks.

Caput succedaneum is a generally harmless condition by itself, but improper action taken in response by a medical professional can cause more lasting harm. It’s their responsibility to determine any health risks that present during the pregnancy, as well as during the delivery and afterwards. If the medical professionals involved in your pregnancy and delivery failed to properly care for you and your infant by acting too slowly, delaying delivery, of taking too long to determine whether or not a caesarian section (C-section) was necessary, they may be held liable for medical malpractice. Along with improper procedure leading up to or during the delivery, an attempt to drain the fluid present in the infant’s scalp can lead to further issues, like infection.

If you or your infant were injured due to improper procedures during your pregnancy or delivery, you may be eligible for compensation. Our Baltimore birth injury attorneys are prepared to work for you to ensure you get the representation in court that you deserve. Call us today at (410) 951-8744 , or complete our online form for your confidential case evaluation.

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