Caput Succedaneum vs. Cephalohematoma Birth Injuries

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Terry Crouppen who has more than 40 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.

Brown & Crouppen

Caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma are two types of newborn head injuries that can occur during birth. While both involve swelling under the scalp, there are important differences between caput succedaneum vs. cephalohematoma. Caput succedaneum refers to a lump caused by pressure under the scalp, whereas a cephalohematoma is a lump formed due to bleeding under the scalp.

The legal team at our full-service personal injury law firm has decades of experience and understands the stress and worry parents may feel when their baby suffers a birth injury like caput succedaneum or a cephalohematoma. Our Missouri birth injury lawyers are here to help. Call (800) 536-4357 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

What Is the Difference Between Caput Succedaneum vs. Cephalohematoma?

Again, caput succedaneum and a cephalohematoma are both birth injuries that cause swelling on a newborn’s head. Caput succedaneum refers to swelling of the soft tissues of the scalp, while a cephalohematoma refers to a collection of blood under the scalp. 

One of the main differences between caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma is the location of the swelling in relation to the periosteum, the membrane covering the baby’s skull. In caput succedaneum, swelling occurs above the periosteum. In a cephalohematoma, the bleeding occurs below the periosteum.

Another difference is that caput succedaneum can cross the suture lines on the baby’s head, while a cephalohematoma does not cross the suture lines. Additionally, caput succedaneum usually resolves within a few days, whereas a cephalohematoma can take weeks or months to heal fully.

Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma Symptoms

Symptoms of caput succedaneum include:

  • Puffiness and swelling on the baby’s scalp
  • Possible bruising or color changes
  • Swelling that extends over the midline of the head and across suture lines
  • Swelling that is soft and may hold an indentation when pressed
  • Shorter recovery time

Symptoms of cephalohematoma include:

  • A raised lump or bulge on the baby’s head
  • Swelling that does not cross the suture lines 
  • Firm texture that does not hold an indentation when pressed
  • Longer recovery time


Again, caput succedaneum and a cephalohematoma are birth injuries that can occur during the delivery process, affecting the baby’s head and scalp. Caput succedaneum occurs when prolonged pressure is applied to the baby’s head during delivery, causing fluids to accumulate under the scalp. This pressure can be caused by the mother’s pelvic bone or vaginal walls during contractions. Risk factors for developing caput succedaneum include:

  • Long or difficult labor, especially if the baby is in the birth canal for an extended period.
  • Using assistive birthing devices, such as forceps or vacuum extractors, which can increase pressure to the baby’s head.
  • A large fetal head size relative to the mother’s pelvis, which can make it harder for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

By contrast, cephalohematoma occurs when blood vessels under the scalp are damaged during birth, allowing blood to collect between the skull and the periosteum membrane, a fibrous membrane that covers the skull. When the vessels are injured, blood can slowly accumulate in the space between the skull and the periosteum, forming a bump on the baby’s head. Common causes of cephalohematomas include:

  • Use of assistive birthing instruments, such as forceps and vacuum extractors, that can cause trauma to the baby’s head and damage the blood vessels beneath the scalp.
  • Difficult or prolonged labor, which can increase the risk of head trauma and blood vessel damage.
  • A large fetal head size relative to the mother’s pelvis, which can lead to increased pressure and friction during delivery.
  • Multiple gestations.
  • Cesarean birth following the first stage of labor. 

Possible Complications

Though these conditions can be alarming for new parents, it is important to note that they are usually harmless, especially caput succedaneum. They normally resolve on their own. 

However, in rare cases, they can lead to complications, especially cephalohematomas. Therefore, health care providers must monitor babies closely and provide appropriate guidance to parents. Potential complications of cephalohematomas include: 

  • Anemia
  • Infection
  • Jaundice
  • Hypotension
  • Intracranial hemorrhaging
  • Underlying linear skull fractures

Treatment Options

So, how long do caput succedaneum and cephalohematomas last? Most cases of caput succedaneum in newborns go away on their own without any special treatment. However, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. If the swelling is severe, a pediatrician may recommend massages to help the fluids drain and relieve the pressure causing the bump.

In most cases, cephalohematoma will also resolve without treatment. However, large cephalohematomas may need to be aspirated to remove the accumulated blood. Rarely, surgery is needed to repair skull fractures or treat an infection. Babies with a cephalohematoma should have blood count checks to monitor for anemia.

How Long Do Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma Last?

Caput succedaneum is a temporary condition that typically resolves on its own within a few days after birth as the fluids accumulated in the scalp are reabsorbed back into the body. In most cases, the swelling and puffiness of caput succedaneum will be gone within a week, leaving no long-term effects.

In contrast, a cephalohematoma tends to take significantly longer to heal fully. The bump or bulge caused by the collected blood beneath the scalp will initially have a soft, spongy feel. Over the next few weeks, as the body works to break down and absorb the blood, the lump will become firmer.

Gradually, the cephalohematoma will shrink in size as the blood is reabsorbed. In most cases, it takes weeks for a cephalohematoma to completely disappear. However, sometimes, it may persist for several months. If the cephalohematoma is exceptionally large or there are complications like an infection, healing may take longer. 

While the healing time for cephalohematoma can feel distressingly long for new parents, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, these bumps do go away on their own with time. If your baby’s cephalohematoma seems to be worsening or shows no improvement after several months, follow up with a pediatrician to check for any underlying issues that may be impeding healing.

Seek Legal Help for Caput Succedaneum or Cephalohematoma Birth Injuries

If your baby suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence, you might be entitled to compensation for resulting expenses, pain, suffering, and more. The award-winning attorneys at Brown & Crouppen are here to help file your lawsuit before the Missouri medical malpractice statute of limitations passes.

"When someone is injured, most people automatically think they're going to get their medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses back, but really, it's so much more than that. . . . Getting full justice means not only recovering those out-of-pocket expenses but also things that are intangible and really affect your day-to-day interactions with people you love."

Our legal team is here to help you learn more about your legal options and evaluate the strength of your birth injury lawsuit. We care about our community and have dedicated our practice to helping injury victims recover justice, accountability, and compensation. 

Let our Missouri birth injury lawyers put their decades of experience to work for you. Call (800) 536-4357 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. 

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