The caput succedaneum is an injury that a newborn can incur during natural vaginal delivery. This creates a swelling over the top of the baby’s skull, which disappears completely within a short time.
What is a caput succedaneum?
Doctors understand the caput succedaneum to be the popularly known birth tumor. In medicine, a certain trauma is classified under the caput succedaneum, which can develop in a newborn as a result of childbirth. During a natural birth, the so-called vaginal birth, the newborn can develop edema or a hematoma.
Small amounts of blood or tissue fluid emerge from the blood vessels due to vascular damage and collect in a cavity. The fluid is located between the cells and is distributed over several bone plates in the head. The hematoma is also known as a subgaleatic hematoma.
The blood collects below the tendon plate of the skull. The hematoma arises over the roof of the skull between the scalp and the bones. The scalp is a resilient composite tissue consisting of the scalp, a layer of connective and fatty tissue underneath the skin and a tendon cover. It is located above the roof of the skull.
The caput succedaneum arises between the tendon cover and the periosteum. This is a thin layer of tissue that covers the outer surfaces of all bones in the body and has a regenerative function for the organism.
During the birth, the unborn child’s head is stuck in the pelvis of the woman giving birth for some time. The strong pressure built up in the birth canal makes it very difficult for the blood to drain out of the child’s head. In addition, the child’s oxygen supply can be reduced. This leads to a widening of the vessels and increased permeability.
The outflow of blood should take place via the veins of the scalp and is prevented by the narrowness of the birth canal. The sustained pressure in the birth canal on the child’s head cannot be compensated by the organism. Since the human scalp is a part of the human body with a very good blood supply, the congestion of blood can lead to vascular damage and blood to leak out of the veins.
The increased permeability results in edema in the child. This creates a swelling in which blood and tissue fluid have accumulated under the skin and in the cell tissue. In addition to a natural vaginal birth, another cause of the caput succedaneum can also be a forceps birth or the use of a suction cup during the birth.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The caput succedaneum is a swelling on the head, consequently the part of the child’s body that usually precedes the birth. In other forms of birth, the caput succedaneum is not to be expected, since there is usually no sustained pressure on the child’s head. The hematoma causes the newborn child to feel uncomfortable or slightly painful when it is touched or exerted further pressure.
Therefore, short-term reactions such as turning your head, screaming or crying are to be expected. A permanent reaction due to the pain caused is not expected from the child, as the hematoma is not severe or long-lasting pain. The nature of the caput succedaneum is described as edematous and pasty. The color of the hematoma is often slightly bluish.
Diagnosis & course
The diagnosis of the caput succedaneum takes place after birth by palpation and visual inspection by a medical professional. The swelling must be distinguished from other diseases or swellings by a doctor in terms of its nature and color. Palpation or palpation is an integral part of the basic techniques in a manual examination of the newborn.
In this form of clinical examination, the body structures are scanned with one or more fingers, thereby localizing the hematoma on the head and determining its condition. The caput succedaneum is usually about three to four centimeters thick. It crosses the cranial sutures and moves accordingly with gravity or by applying gentle pressure with the fingers. The hematoma can be easily dented when applying pressure with the fingertips.
In most cases there are no further complications or complaints with the caput succedaneum. The swelling occurs immediately after birth and in most cases disappears after a short time. Neither the mother nor the child will experience any further complaints.
The swelling itself occurs immediately after birth and can lead to pain in the child. Most of the time, the pain occurs mainly when moving the head, causing the child to scream or cry. As the swelling itself goes away quickly, the pain goes away too. If necessary, the swelling can be colored blue.
Even if the caput succedaneum can become relatively large, the symptom subsides on its own. However, it can take up to a week for the symptom to go away completely. During this time, the child is restricted in his head movements.
Parents must also pay special attention to this region and protect it. The regression occurs by itself without the need for medical intervention. There are no further complications or complaints.
When should you go to the doctor?
As a rule, the caput succedaneum does not require any medical treatment. The swelling resolves on its own after a few days and rarely causes complications. However, if the swelling causes pain or severe discomfort in the child, it is best to inform the attending physician. They can take another look at the injury and, if necessary, prescribe a gentle pain reliever.
If the caput succedaneum has not receded after a few days, there may be another problem that must be clarified and treated if necessary. If the child has abnormal behavior or continues to experience pain for a few weeks to months after birth, this indicates a serious complication.
In this case, parents should immediately consult the pediatrician. Basically, however, a caput succedaneum is harmless and only needs to be carefully observed. Parents who are still concerned are best advised to speak to the doctor responsible about their fears.
Treatment & Therapy
The caput succedaneum can assume grotesque proportions. Still, it usually resolves on its own in about a week after giving birth. Usually a clear decrease or a complete decongestion can already be seen one or two days after the birth. Slightly cooling pads can be placed on the spot to help.
The child and the head area should be protected overall during this time. Medical intervention is not necessary in the case of a caput succedaneum, as the regression usually takes place spontaneously. No further medical treatment measures will be carried out for the caput succedaneum.
Outlook & forecast
As a rule, Caput succedaneum does not lead to a severe course and to a complete healing. A direct treatment of the disease does not have to be carried out, as the symptoms usually go away on their own. The swelling goes away on its own a few days after the birth and there are no particular symptoms or consequential damage.
The healing process can be supported by cooling pads to relieve the swelling. Medical treatment is not necessary, however, so that Caput succedaneum will always cure. The child should be spared until the swelling has completely subsided so that there are no further injuries or swellings. After the swelling has subsided, however, the child can move and develop freely again.
The healing process can also be accelerated by taking vitamin K. Most children are also given a bandage to keep the wound clean. This also promotes healing. The life expectancy of the person affected is not negatively influenced or otherwise reduced by Caput succedaneum.
There are no preventive measures that can be taken with the caput succedaneum. At most, a birth other than vaginal birth, which is not preceded by the head, could be considered as a preventive measure. The use of forceps or a suction cup would also have to be dispensed with. However, this is not advisable as it is not a serious disease and the swelling has completely disappeared within a few days.
You can do that yourself
A birth tumor usually does not require any special self-help measures. Parents only have to make sure that the child takes in sufficient vitamin K, because the substance promotes blood clotting and thus wound healing.
In addition, a caput succedaneum must be hygienically cared for. The bandage should be changed several times a day and the hematoma treated with a doctor-prescribed ointment. If there is also an open wound, a sterile bandage must be applied and also changed regularly. The doctor in charge will inform the parents about the measures to be taken.
Treatment with medication suitable for children is required in any case. Home remedies and natural remedies should not be used, because if used incorrectly, the tumor can become inflamed and cause permanent damage. Cooling pads that can be used two to three times a day are permitted.
If the child is also spared and is otherwise healthy, the caput succedaneum should regress within the first week of life. If this is not the case, the child must be examined again by the doctor.