Sometimes when a child is born, he will have some swelling on his head, and this is known as caput succedaneum. This swelling is caused by different pressure put on the child as he was being delivered. Typically, the pressure comes from the vaginal walls or cervix as the baby was being delivered, and in more extreme cases there may be slight bruising or change in color.
In almost all circumstances, caput succedaneum is not a serious condition, and the swelling and bruising will disappear after a short time. However, if the pressure on the child’s head was very severe, there may be more serious consequences, so it’s important to understand all of the known caput succedaneum causes.
Inadequate Proportions of the Mother’s Pelvis
When delivering a child, the difficulty of the delivery is sometimes due to the size of the mother’s pelvis, and whether or not the baby’s head can easily travel through the birth canal. When a woman has a smaller pelvis, it can lead to a longer and more difficult delivery. The smaller the pelvis, the more pressure will be placed on the child’s head during labor, making this one of the most common caput succedaneum causes.
In addition to the mother’s pelvis, the size of the baby also has a large effect on how the delivery proceeds. If a baby is very large—typically a baby who weighs more than eight pounds and 13 ounce is considered large—it may be difficult to deliver no matter how large the mother’s pelvis is.
There are many different complications and reasons that result in a delivery taking longer than normal. Doctors normally consider deliveries over 18 hours as long deliveries. Virtually all babies will have some pressure on their heads and bodies as they are being born, but as long as the delivery is not too long, they will not develop swelling. However, if the delivery takes too long, even minor pressure can result in caput succedaneum.
Early Rupture of Amniotic Sac
Another well-known example of caput succedaneum causes is the early rupture of the amniotic sac. The membranes of the amniotic sac provide cushioning for the baby as he is being delivered. This helps mitigate pressure on the baby’s skull as he is moving through the birth canal, but if this sac ruptures early in the process, the baby will have no cushioning during the delivery.
Too Little Amniotic Fluid
In addition to early rupture, there are other caput succedaneum causes that are related to amniotic fluid. Some babies have very little amniotic fluid while they develop in the uterus. As this fluid will eventually act as cushioning during delivery, a lack of fluid will put more pressure on the baby’s body when it is being delivered.
Use of Vacuum Suction or Forceps
When vacuum suction or forceps are used during delivery, there is a greater chance that the baby will have caput succedaneum. Though these methods will not result in any long term or serious injury to the baby, they may put a little more pressure on the baby’s head, and that’s why there may be some slight swelling afterwards.
Of all of caput succedaneum causes, the one you want to watch for the most is medical malpractice by the doctor and staff. If a baby is delivered incorrectly, too slowly, or if the doctor takes too long to decide to do a C-section, there may be undue pressure on the baby’s head and body. Though caput succedaneum is not a serious health problem on its own, extreme stress and pressure on the head could cause serious injuries.