Caput succedaneum

Alternative names

Caput succedaneum is a diffuse swelling of the scalp in a newborn caused by pressure from the uterus or vaginal wall during a head-first (vertex) delivery.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
A caput succedaneum is caused by the mechanical trauma of the initial portion of scalp pushing through a narrowed cervix. The swelling may be on any portion of the scalp, may cross the midline (as opposed to a cephalhematoma), and may be discolored because of slight bleeding in the area. There may also be molding of the head, which is common in association with a caput succedaneum.


  • soft, puffy swelling of the scalp in a newborn infant  
  • swelling may or may not have some degree of bruising  
  • swelling may extend over the midline of the scalp  
  • is most often seen on the portion of the head which presented first  
  • may be associated with increased molding of the head

Signs and tests
Physical examination confirms that the swelling is a caput succedaneum. No testing is necessary.

No treatment is necessary, and it usually heals spontaneously within a few days.

Expectations (prognosis)
Complete recovery can be expected, with the scalp regaining its normal contour.

Jaundice can result as the bruise breaks down into bilirubin.

Calling your health care provider
This condition is usually noticed immediately after delivery of the child, so no call is necessary - unless you have additional questions.

A caput succedaneum is considered a normal side effect of delivery. No active preventive measures are recommended.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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