Causes and Symptoms Of Caput Succedaneum

The desire of every mother and father is that their newborn is healthy. The fear of birth injuries is a fear that is in the back of many parents’ minds as they face labor and delivery. The fear that something will go tragically wrong and something will happen to their precious baby.

Tragically, birth injuries can occur because of errors and negligence committed during labor and delivery. Caput succedaneum is just one of the potential birth defects a newborn may sustain. 

What is Caput Succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum sounds extremely scary. Many parents may have never heard of the condition. However, “Caput” is a common birth injury that many parents are forced to learn about after their baby is born.

Doctors can detect Caput succedaneum on an ultrasound at 31 weeks of pregnancy or later. However, most cases of Caput become known after the mother delivers the baby. 

Newborns with Caput succedaneum appear to have a malformed head. The baby’s scalp has the appearance of a cone-shaped head because of swelling. Caput is most common in newborns when mothers have a long or complicated delivery.

Symptoms and Signs of Caput Succedaneum

Caput is diagnosed with a physical examination of the newborn. No diagnostic tests are necessary to determine if the newborn has Caput succedaneum. In most cases, if a baby has Caput, it is immediately noticed after birth.

Common signs that a baby has Caput include:

  • The baby’s scalp has soft, puffy swelling that may extend to both sides of the infant’s head
  • There may be bruising on the baby’s scalp, or the scalp is a different color in the area that is swollen
  • The swelling will be most noticeable on the area of the head that presented first during delivery

Caput is a birth injury that generally does not cause any long-term complications or impairments, but that is not always the case. Babies born with Caput should be monitored closely for any signs of distress or complications.

Are There any Risk Factors for Caput?

As with other birth injuries, it is difficult to know whether Caput succedaneum could have been avoided. Monitoring the baby and the mother closely during labor and delivery can minimize the risk for Caput. Also, comprehensive prenatal care can alert doctors to any risk factors that could increase the chances of Caput.

Some risk factors could increase the chance that a baby may be born with Caput. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Deliveries that are prolonged or difficult and require extensive pushing
  • The use of vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery
  • PROM or Premature Rupture of the Membranes 
  • Unusually low amounts of amniotic fluid

If any of the above situations apply, a doctor should immediately take any steps available to reduce the risk that the newborn will have Caput succedaneum.

Are There Potential Complications for Babies Born with Caput?

Caput generally goes away in a few days without any medical intervention. However, there is a risk that the newborn may develop jaundice. Jaundice can become very serious and cause permanent impairments. 

Jaundice occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the newborn’s system. The bruising caused by Caput succedaneum can increase the amount of bilirubin in the baby’s system. If treated immediately and correctly, jaundice generally goes away within a few days. 

If a doctor misses a jaundice diagnosis, the baby could develop a dangerous condition called kernicterus. The brain is damaged because of the high levels of bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. Kernicterus can cause long-term impairments, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
  • Problems with the development of tooth enamel 
  • Vision problems

If jaundice is not treated, the result could be fatal. When a newborn has Caput succedaneum, doctors should monitor the baby for any signs of jaundice so that it can be treated immediately. 

What Should You Do if Your Baby Suffers From Birth Injuries?

Parents know when something is wrong. If you believe that your baby sustained a birth injury, question your doctors and nurses. Make careful notes regarding all explanations and conversations.

When you are discharged from the hospital, request copies of all medical records for you and your baby. Request copies of the medical records from your obstetrician too. Make sure that the request covers all records, including diagnostic tests, reports, and notes. 

Write down as much as you can remember about your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. For example, did your doctor make you wait to push or have you push for an extended period? Was the doctor unavailable during your labor and delivery? These can all be important details if you decide to file a medical malpractice claim.

Locate a pediatrician that specializes in birth injuries that is not affiliated with the hospital. Monitor your baby close and go to the emergency room if your baby is in distress or has any unexplained symptoms.

Contact a birth injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. The sooner you have a birth injury lawyer advising you, the better.