Caput Succedaneum

Prolonged vaginal deliveries and the use of forceps or other assisted devices can cause swelling in a newborn’s scalp. Called caput succedaneum, this temporary, harmless condition doesn’t need treatment. Rarely, a baby with caput succedaneum develops jaundice or temporary hair loss. With the condition, some infants’ heads look cone-shaped.


What is a caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum is swelling (edema) that affects a newborn’s scalp. It most commonly occurs from pressure on the head as the baby moves through the birth canal during a prolonged or difficult vaginal delivery.

In caput succedaneum (kuh-PUT sec-seh-DAY-knee-um), fluid builds underneath the scalp, causing swelling. The baby’s head may have a cone-shaped appearance or newborn conehead. Healthcare providers often call it caput for short.


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How common is caput succedaneum?

There’s a 2% to 33% chance of a baby having this type of edema or swelling.

What are risk factors for caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum most commonly occurs during vaginal delivery. It’s rare for cesarean section (C-section) birth to cause this swelling.

Factors that contribute to caput succedaneum (newborn conehead):

  • Assisted delivery that requires vacuum extraction or forceps.
  • Larger-than-average baby (fetal macrosomia) weighing more than 8 pounds 13 ounces.
  • Long, difficult delivery.
  • The baby sits low (drops) in the birth canal for a prolonged time before delivery.


What are the effects of caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum typically affects the back of an infant’s head. You may notice:

  • Darker colors or bruising on the swollen area.
  • Puffiness or swelling that feels soft.
  • Swelling that extends down both sides of the head.

What should I expect if my baby has caput succedaneum?

Caput succedaneum is typically harmless. The swelling should go away without treatment in a few hours or days.


What are the potential complications of caput succedaneum?

Potential complications of caput succedaneum include:

  • Hair loss: Some babies have hair loss (alopecia) in the shape of a ring or halo at the site of the swelling. Prolonged pressure on the baby’s scalp during childbirth may damage tissue, causing temporary hair loss. In rare instances, scars form on the scalp, leading to permanent hair loss.
  • Jaundice: Swelling and bruising can raise bilirubin levels in the blood, leading to jaundice. Your baby’s eyes or skin may have a yellow tint. This condition typically improves on its own.

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma?

These two conditions may occur together or separately:

  • Caput succedaneum causes swelling (edema) on the top of the scalp that is usually noticeable at birth. This swelling causes the scalp to feel spongy, does cross suture lines, and starts to go down soon after birth.
  • Cephalohematoma is a buildup of blood (hemorrhage) underneath a newborn’s scalp. It appears soon after birth. The bulge is discrete, does not cross the suture lines of the bones on their head, and located at the back of the head. It may take months to go away.

Can you detect caput succedaneum early?

Certain pregnancy complications can cause caput succedaneum to occur while a baby is still in the womb. A prenatal ultrasound may detect the swelling.

Pregnancy complications that may lead to caput succedaneum include:

  • Low amniotic fluid.
  • Premature rupture of membranes (your water breaks) before the 37th week of pregnancy.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Although a newborn with caput succedaneum may have an unusual-shaped head due to scalp swelling, the condition is harmless. The swelling will go down on its own in a few days or weeks. In rare instances, babies with caput succedaneum develop jaundice. Contact your child’s healthcare provider if you notice changes to the color of your baby’s skin or eyes. Your baby may have some temporary hair loss at the site of the swelling of the scalp, but the hair almost always grows back.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 12/28/2021.

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