Caput succedaneum is the formal medical term for the area of localized swelling or edema that is commonly found on a newborn baby’s head after vaginal delivery. Caput succedaneum is a very common and usually benign neonatal condition arising from normal pressure and compression on the head of the baby as it passes through the birth canal. Caput succedaneum itself is harmless, as swelling is confined to the scalp and is not a sign of a deeper skull or brain injury. Even if caput succedaneum itself is nothing to worry about and resolves quickly, It may cause other complications including neonatal jaundice.


  • The swelling in the head and scalp that characterizes caput succedaneum is the product of the baby’s acute external pressure during labor and childbirth on its head.
  • The primary source of the external pressure is the birth channel itself. The baby is pushed through the birth canal head first in a normal vaginal delivery.
  • Head-first delivery makes the top of the head the focal point of significant pressure as the fetus works its way through the very narrow birth canal.
  • During childbirth the most common cause is pressure on the head from the uterus or vaginal wall of the mother.
  • In a C-section, babies may also suffer caput, although the pressure on the infant’s head may still be due to pressure on the head before the procedure.

In babies who are macrosomic (high birth-weight), or after prolonged, difficult birth, these stresses are greater. Full-term newborns or delayed newborns are more likely to weigh and be at greater risk than premature newborns. The premature rupture of the membranes that surround the baby in the womb can also cause swelling in the scalp. Once the fetal membranes are ruptured, the amniotic sac is no longer available for the baby’s head to act as a supporting cushion. With little amniotic fluid, the head of the fetus is placed under higher pressure from the pelvic bones of the mother. Caput succedaneum can also be triggered by using a vacuum extractor or forceps to facilitate delivery of a vaginal product.


The principal symptom of caput succedaneum is swelling the scalp of the infant. The swelling can occur on one hand or the other, and can in some cases spread over the scalp’s midline. In certain cases there may be some bruising or discoloration, and after the swelling goes down, the infant’s head may be slightly pointed. It is caused by the excess pressure exerted on the head of the infant’s bones, which is known as “molding.”


Within a week or so after the infant’s conception, Caput succedaneum will clear up on its own. If the head of the child remains slightly pointing after birth, that should also go away over time. Since the bones of the child in their head are not yet fused, they can shift a substantial quantity and recover in the proper way.

The swelling or bruising present in caput succedaneum may increase your infant’s risk of bruising or jaundice. This should clear up without treatment within two to three weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, in some cases untreated jaundice can lead to more severe health problems, so keeping an eye on the symptoms is vital for your doctor, and potentially perform blood tests if it doesn’t clear up within a few weeks.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

This condition requires no treatment and there should be no long-term effects. Within several days the swelling will reduce, and the scalp will look normal within days or weeks.

The normal symptom of this condition is a large or swollen head. After delivery, your baby’s doctor will be able to diagnose their condition and can monitor their condition to ensure that there is no lasting effects.