Caput Succedaneum refers to a condition in which fluid builds up between the skin and scalp of a newborn. This is a fairly common and relatively benign condition. It is often associated with a difficult birth. Usually, babies experience caput succedaneum due to vacuum extraction. Most infants typically recover in a few days without any problems, however, if the condition is not treated properly, it can create lifelong damage.

What Is Caput Succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum is a birth trauma. The birth trauma causes fluid to collect underneath the skin of an infant resulting in a swollen head. It usually occurs in head-first deliveries due to the pressure from the vaginal wall or uterus. In more extreme cases, it causes head molding in which bones join and change the shape of the skull of an infant. Molding occurs when force is exerted at the connection points between bones of the head, causing them to overlap. Because of the overlapping at the head of an infant, the skull may become pointed or unusually shaped.

Caput Succedaneum Causes

This disorder usually develops when there is a long or difficult delivery. When the membranes break, the amniotic sac is no longer able to provide cushion for the cranium of the infant. Vacuum extraction can further aggravate a situation when a mother is going through a tough labor. Sometimes caput succedaneum can be diagnosed before the baby is born. Caput succedaneum is usually detected in an ultrasound.

When caput succedaneum happens before delivery, the usual causes include little amniotic fluid or the early rupture of the membranes. Caput succedaneum is usually diagnosed during the first six months of pregnancy. However, when the membranes are intact and strong, a baby is less likely to suffer from caput succedaneum.

Caput Succedaneum Symptoms

Caput succedaneum symptoms may vary from one infant to another. Many cases are not severe. Still, some parents might develop a sense of panic from the appearance of an infant exhibiting more extreme symptoms. The most obvious symptom is a disfigured head which will commonly revert to a normal shape after a few days.

Some other common symptoms of caput succedaneum can include:

  • The part of head which was delivered first is the most swollen part of the skull
  • Swelling from one side of the head can spread to the other side of the head
  • A color change or more bruising on swollen part of the scalp
  • Soft swelling on the head
  • Molding of the bones on the head

Tests for Caput Succedaneum

Before delivery caput succedaneum can be diagnosed through ultrasound. However, after the delivery, caput succedaneum can be diagnosed through other means such as a visual inspection. The usual tests for less obvious cases of caput succedaneum include CT scan or MRI.


Complications for caput succedaneum may result in jaundice or yellow color of the skin. This is usually a minor complication. However, if it becomes severe, it requires treatment and is often the most dangerous aspect of caput succedaneum. A difficulty in labor or usage of forceps can cause this disorder or exacerbate it.

Caput Succedaneum Treatment

Usually for caput succedaneum, no treatment is given as full recovery is typically expected within a few days. Babies may have molding on the head that causes oblong or pointed head. This is considered to be normal. However, it may take several weeks to disappear. Even in such cases, no treatment is usually required.

Caput Succedaneum Legal Consideration

Symptoms of caput succedaneum may last longer than expected. It is possible that the scalp of the infant may not continue to improve after it has been discharged from care. Caput succedaneum can be caused by malpractice or negligence at the time of delivery or, in some cases, a misdiagnosis before delivery. If you feel that your infant has become worse has failed to recover by the expected time, it is imperative to speak with a qualified birth injury attorney. An experienced birth injury lawyer will provide the knowledge and expertise to seek legal recourse.




“Caput Succedaneum.” MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <>.

“Caput Succedaneum.” Healthy Lifestyle. Miami Children’s Hospital. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <>.

Morgan, Matt A. “Caput Succedaneum.” Radiopaedia. Radiopaedia. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <>.