Birth injuries are terrifying for parents. Even the smallest thing that goes wrong during labor and delivery can be traumatic for the parents. The only thing that a new mother and father desire is for their baby to be born healthy and safe.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Errors and omissions during labor and delivery can result in birth injuries, including Caput succedaneum.

What is Caput Succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum or “Caput” is a condition that is generally noticed at birth but can be detected on an ultrasound around 31 weeks of pregnancy. In most cases, Caput does not result in any long-lasting complications, but there are exceptions. Babies should be monitored closely for signs of complications.

Caput is a type of birth injury that causes a newborn’s head to appear malformed. The scalp swells and gives the appearance of a cone-shaped head. Caput is most common when the mother has a complicated and prolonged delivery.

While Caput generally goes away in a few days without medical treatment, there could be dangerous complications in some cases. Infants with Caput should be monitored closely to make sure that the swelling around the skull disappears without causing further injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of Caput

There are no diagnostic tests required to determine whether a newborn has Caput. The doctor can perform a physical examination to detect the signs of Caput succedaneum. In most cases, the signs of Caput are obvious after delivery.

The most common signs of Caput in newborns are:

  • Soft, puffy swelling of the baby’s scalp. The swelling may extend to both sides of the baby’s head.
  • Color change in the scalp area that is swollen or bruising on the baby’s scalp.
  • The swelling is most often noticed on the portion of the head that presented first.

Always seek medical care if you notice any of these signs.

What are the Risk Factors for Caput Succedaneum?

Depending on the circumstances of labor and delivery, Caput may or may not have been prevented. Comprehensive prenatal care and close monitoring of the mother and baby during delivery can minimize the chances of Caput.

However, some risk factors increase the chance a baby may develop Caput. Common risk factors that can increase the chance a newborn might have Caput include:

  • PROM (Premature Rupture of the Membranes) can increase the risk of Caput because the protective cushion for the baby’s head is no longer there.
  • Prolonged and difficult deliveries with extensive pushing.
  • Unusually low amount of amniotic fluid (Oligohydramnios).
  • Vacuum extraction or use of forceps.

Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer if you believe your child has been injured during birth.

Potential Complications From Caput

While most cases of Caput heal within a few days, some infants can develop serious complications. Jaundice is one of the most common complications from Caput succedaneum. The bruising caused by Caput can break down into bilirubin.

Because there is additional bilirubin in the baby’s system, the newborn could have a higher risk for developing jaundice. When treated correctly, jaundice should go away without any long-lasting problems, just like Caput.

However, if jaundice is not treated correctly, the newborn could develop kernicterus. Kernicterus is damage to the brain caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. A newborn that develops kernicterus can have long-term impairments including:

  • Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
  • Hearing Loss
  • Vision Problems
  • Problems with the Development of Tooth Enamel

In severe cases, undiagnosed and untreated jaundice can result in infant death. Medical professionals must monitor a newborn with Caput very carefully to detect and immediately treat jaundice.

What Should Parents Do?

If you believe that your newborn’s doctor is not providing adequate care or monitoring your baby closely, you can request another physician. If you believe that your baby has sustained a birth injury because of negligence or errors committed by doctors, nursing, or other medical providers, you have options for pursuing a birth injury claim.

Make sure that you take careful notes about everything that occurred after your baby was born. What was said to you and what treatments, if any, were given to your newborn?

Write down as much as you can remember about labor and delivery. For example, were there any unnecessary delays during labor and delivery? Did your doctor make you wait to push for a long period because he was not available?

Request copies of your medical records and your child’s medical records immediately. When you submit the request, make sure that it covers all records, including notes, diagnostic tests, and reports.

Monitor your baby closely and take your baby to another physician or the emergency room immediately if your child experiences any unexplained symptoms.

You may also want to consult with a birth injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options. Having this information can help you decide on a course of action that is in your baby’s best interests.