One of the most common afflictions a newborn can receive is Caput Succedaneum. While this condition may seem horrifying for new parents, it is not life-threatening and requires minimal care to treat.
You might have found this article after a recent ultrasound showed CS on your unborn child. Before panicking, it is important to understand this condition and how to monitor it until your baby is fully healed.
The following information is everything you need to know about Caput Succedaneum from what it is to how it is treated, as well as what you can do to help your baby recover from it.
What is This Condition?
Caput Succedaneum refers to edema in an infant’s scalp. Edema is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in certain tissues of the body. It can accumulate both in the lungs or under the skin, but CS is found underneath the skin of the scalp.
It appears as a lump or bump on the head shortly after delivery that occurs from pressure put on the head during delivery. The condition is harmless and does not indicate any damage to the brain or skull. However, it can lead to other complications down the road.
What Causes CS?
During a traditional birth, the dilated cervix and vaginal walls place pressure on the baby being born. When excess pressure is placed on the head, it can cause swelling and bruising. This might happen with long, difficult labor that requires a great deal of pushing.
If your doctor uses vacuum suction or forceps, the risk for Caput Succedaneum increases. The same is true if the amniotic sac ruptures early during labor. This causes a decrease in the fluid, causing the mother’s pelvic bones to put pressure on the infant’s head.
What Are the Symptoms?
Caput Succedaneum usually comes with only one symptom, and that is the lump on the top of the baby’s head. The skin will be both swollen and soft, and pressing on it may result in a dimple. The swelling can be on one side or continue through to the midline of the scalp.
The area will most likely have discoloration or bruising but will not be extensive. The swelling does eventually go down but may leave a slight point on the top of the head from the pressure CS places on the bones.
This point is called molding, and almost always goes away over time. Since the bones in a baby’s head are not yet fused together, there is plenty of time for them to move around without damage.
Does This Condition Need To Be Treated?
No, not at all. Caput Succedaneum goes away all on its own, so there’s nothing you need to do. Any attempts to drain the buildup of fluid can result in more permanent damage as well as infection.
Prenatal ultrasounds should be able to pick up the bump should it occur before delivery, and the condition disappears in just a few days. Your doctor or midwife will be able to monitor the baby’s CS for any possible risks during the time it is present.
Are There Any Complications?
While this is usually not a concern for new parents, you should be aware that the swelling and bruising can increase an infant’s risk of jaundice. Jaundice is caused by excess bilirubin in the blood, causing the skin to turn a shade of yellow.
Since the buildup of fluid will go away, jaundice almost always does as well with proper treatment. However, untreated jaundice may lead to more serious health problems. It is highly advised to consult your doctor if yellowing of the skin occurs.
Untreated jaundice can lead to:
- Permanent brain damage
- Permanent hearing loss
- Athetoid cerebral palsy from lesions in the brain
- Abnormal development of tooth enamel
- Eyes fixed in a permanent upwards position
- And in extreme cases, death
The doctor can perform a series of bloodwork to determine what is causing jaundice, as well as if further steps will need to be taken in order to keep your child healthy.
In some cases, Alopecia may occur from the pressure that had been placed on the scalp. The surrounding tissues might die, causing hair loss. Normally, the hair will grow in healthy once the bump is gone.
Treating Infant Jaundice
While mild cases of infant jaundice fade away on their own within a few weeks, moderate to severe cases require more extensive care. There are three commonly used treatments to lower the level of bilirubin in your baby’s blood.
During this treatment, your baby will be placed under blue-green spectrum lighting. This changes the shape and structure of bilirubin molecules to make them more easily excreted through your baby’s urine and stool.
Light therapy is administered overhead, through the use of pads, or with a light emitting bed. Light in the blue-green spectrum does not emit ultraviolet rays, making it safe for infants.
In some cases, jaundice is related to a blood type difference in the baby and mother. This results in the baby forming different antibodies, causing the mother’s antibodies to contribute to the breakdown of blood cells.
An IV transfusion of immunoglobulin may decrease the presence of jaundice. Immunoglobulin is a blood protein that reduces the levels of the antibodies found in the bloodstream.
In rare cases, severe jaundice might not respond to light therapy or IV treatments. In this instance, the baby might need a blood transfusion exchange.
Small amounts of blood are repeatedly drawn out so that doctors can dilute the bilirubin and maternal antibodies. Once cleaned, the blood can then be reinjected into the baby. This procedure is performed in newborn intensive care units and is often the last resort method.
Are There Any Long-Term Effects?
There are no long-term effects associated with Caput Succedaneum and swelling usually goes down within just a few days. In the meantime, your child will simply have a larger, swollen head. It is still important that your doctor monitor the condition, ensuring it does not evolve into something else.
Similarities with Cephalohematomas
Caput Succedaneum shares a number of similarities with Cephalohematomas. However, a Cephalohematoma is caused by fluid buildup much deeper in the scalp and is caused by broken blood vessels.
The same pressure that causes CS can also cause Cephalohematomas, but it is more likely to be caused by pressure placed on the child in the womb. It is usually identified with the help of ultrasound during late pregnancy.
Risk factors for Cephalohematomas include:
- Having a male baby
- Delivering your first child
- Birthing a very large baby
- The use of forceps to pull the baby out
- The use of a vacuum to aid in labor
- Prolonged, strenuous labor
Babies with Cephalohematomas are more prone to infection and anemia, as well as skull fractures. Parents might notice that the bump on their child’s head hardens instead of remaining soft like it would with Caput Succedaneum. However, both conditions usually resolve themselves.
Your doctor will quickly notice the difference between the two, but parents can identify Cephalohematomas from CS because it appears two to three days after birth instead of being present once the baby is born.
What Can Parents Do?
The best thing you can do for your child during this time is to monitor the CS over the next few days. Pay close attention to the swelling, making sure it is receding over time.
Your child will become very irritable, as this condition is somewhat painful. The doctor may prescribe analgesics to reduce the pain felt from headaches, bruising, and the swelling itself. Analgesics use should be kept to a minimum, but your doctor will inform you of how much is safe to give to your child.
Parents can help to remove the buildup of bilirubin by feeding the baby more often if mild jaundice occurs. Breastfed infants should have eight to twelve feedings a day, while formula-fed infants should consume roughly two ounces of formula every two and half hours.
If this condition is causing your baby to have trouble feeding or to lose weight, supplemental feeding is highly recommended. Your doctor may suggest using formula or expressed milk alone until the condition goes away.
If you notice any signs of jaundice, bleeding, or incredible discomfort, make sure to visit your doctor. Although rare, complications may occur. Thankfully, they are not outside the scope of your doctor’s ability to treat.
The most important thing to remember is that this condition takes care of itself in just a few days. While it isn’t going to be an enjoyable process, it’s important to stay calm and not panic.
Follow the advice of your doctor carefully, making sure to monitor the condition for any signs of improvement or worsening. Caput Succedaneum is very common, and your baby is going to be healthy and happy in no time.