Caput Succedaneum

What is Caput Succedaneum?

birth injury caput succedaneumCaput succedaneum is a medical term that describes swelling of an infant’s scalp shortly after delivery. This usually develops when pressure is placed on the infant from the uterus or vaginal wall during birth; more commonly during head-first (vertex) deliveries. Caput succedaneum does not indicate damage to the brain or cranial structure, but an edema, or abnormal accumulation of fluid, in the cranium. In general, this birth complication is harmless if monitored properly.

Causes of Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum often occurs after a lengthy or difficult delivery. It is more likely to develop after the membranes in the amniotic sac have broken or there is not enough fluid in the amniotic sac. When the amniotic sac is not supporting the infant’s head, the mother’s pelvic bones will continue to force pressure on the presenting part of the infant’s scalp. It is possible for an infant to experience swelling before the mother goes into labor.

The use of vacuum extractors and forceps also increase the chance of an infant developing this condition; especially if too much force is applied or force is applied incorrectly due to negligent use of the forceps.

Symptoms of Caput Succedaneum

Symptoms of caput succedaneum include:

  • Swelling under the skin of the scalp
  • Bruising or discoloration of the scalp
  • Swelling that extends to both sides of the scalp
  • Increased molding of the head

While there is no formal test used to diagnose this condition, a physician just needs to perform a physical examination or ultrasound to assess the infant’s symptoms and make a formal diagnosis.

Caput Succedaneum vs. Infant Cephalohematoma

Infant Cephalohematoma is a condition that causes a pool of blood to form between the periosteum of an infant’s skull bone and the bone itself. Because cephalohematomas develop internally, their symptoms often go unnoticed. Although caused by similar circumstances (prolonged delivery or instrumental delivery), infants with cephalohematoma will not experience symptoms until 24 to 48 hours after delivery.

Birth Injury Lawyers in Houston

If your newborn has suffered serious injuries due to the misdiagnosis or development of caput succedaneum, you may be entitled to legal recovery. At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., our birth injury attorneys understand how difficult filing a claim can be, which is why all of our initial consultations are free. Call us today at 1-800-298-0111 to learn more about your rights.


Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal,, HG Legal Resources,, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.