What Is Cephalohematoma in Newborn Babies?
Cephalohematoma in newborn babies is characterized by a pooling of blood underneath the skin of an infant’s skull due to ruptured blood vessels during childbirth.
This usually happens due to a difficult delivery or assistive tools like forceps or vacuum extractors.
The condition is identified by a soft, bulging bump on the baby’s head, which may appear a few hours or days after birth. While it can look concerning, newborn cephalohematoma symptoms usually resolve on their own over weeks to months as the body reabsorbs the blood.
What Are the Symptoms of Newborn Cephalohematoma?
There are various newborn cephalohematoma symptoms, including larger than average head size, soft spots on the head, seizures, and swelling of the head.
Here are some of the more common newborn cephalohematoma symptoms.
1. Larger Than Average Head Size
Children with newborn cephalohematoma often have heads that appear larger than average. This is because cephalohematoma causes blood to gather around the child’s ruptured or damaged blood vessels.
2. Soft Spots on the Head
Children with newborn cephalohematoma may develop soft spots on the head known as bulging fontanelles. These happen when fluid accumulates, or there is swelling, putting more pressure on the brain.
When the baby is lying down, crying, or vomiting, the fontanelles may look like they are sticking out.
Severe newborn cephalohematomas can cause brain injury, which can lead to seizures.
A seizure is a physical change in behavior due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It can cause your child to shake uncontrollably, with their muscles relaxing and contracting repeatedly.
4. Swelling of the Head
Babies with newborn cephalohematoma may have swollen heads due to the buildup of blood around their damaged blood vessels. The swelling is usually located at the back of the head and does not cross the bony plates in a baby’s skull that allow for growth (suture lines). Swelling can take months to go away.
5. Vomiting or Trouble Feeding
Children with newborn cephalohematoma may have trouble feeding or vomiting, especially if they have brain damage. Brain damage can make it difficult for babies to move their bodies, swallow, and process food.
6. High-Pitched Crying
Children with newborn cephalohematoma and neurological impairment may make high-pitched cries that sound like pain cries. Research suggests that children with brain damage are more fussy due to increased sensitivity to stimuli.
7. Extreme Fatigue
Babies with newborn cephalohematoma may be extremely tired. They may sleep most of the day and be lethargic when awake.
If you have questions about newborn cephalohematoma symptoms, our labor and delivery nurses may be able to help.
Connect with one of our registered nurses now.
Newborn Cephalohematoma vs. Caput Succedaneum
Newborn cephalohematoma symptoms are often similar to the symptoms of caput succedaneum (a birth injury causing swelling in the scalp). Both conditions involve swelling and unusual bumps on the newborn’s head.
Learn about the main differences between these two birth injuries in the chart below.
|Bleeding under the scalp
|Scalp swelling due to pressure
|Back of the head, not crossing suture lines
|Top of the scalp, can cross suture lines
|Feels soft until it calcifies and gets harder and denser
|Average healing time
|May take months
|Swelling goes down soon after birth
When Will Newborn Cephalohematoma Symptoms Appear?
When newborn cephalohematoma symptoms appear depends on the type of cephalohematoma.
- Acute infant hematoma: Newborn cephalohematoma symptoms may show shortly or immediately after birth.
- Chronic infant hematoma: Newborn cephalohematoma symptoms may not appear until days or weeks after birth.
Causes and Risk Factors for Infant Cephalohematoma
One of the main causes of newborn cephalohematoma is pressure on an infant’s head during a difficult vaginal delivery.
The pressure can be the result of the size of the baby’s head relative to the birth canal or the mother’s pelvic bone.
It can also be a complication from vacuum extractors, an assisted delivery tool used in vaginal deliveries.
- Breech (feet-first) birth
- Difficult or prolonged vaginal delivery
- Epidural pain relief during childbirth
- Fetal macrosomia (larger-than-average baby, weighing over 8 pounds, 13 ounces)
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, and more)
- Preterm birth
- Vaginal delivery using assistive tools, especially vacuum extractors
What to Do if Your Child Has Newborn Cephalohematoma Symptoms
A cephalohematoma can lead to serious conditions such as neonatal infections and jaundice, a condition caused by bilirubin buildup characterized by yellowish skin and whites of the eyes.
Therefore, it is very important to monitor your child for newborn cephalohematoma symptoms and report any concerns to your child’s doctor without delay.
If doctors fail to diagnose and treat jaundice in time, babies may develop kernicterus, a type of brain damage. Kernicterus can lead to serious lifelong problems, such as hearing loss and dyskinetic cerebral palsy.
Newborn cephalohematoma can also cause injury to a baby’s fragile skull.
About 25% of babies with newborn cephalohematoma symptoms develop skull fractures.
Here’s what you should do if you suspect your child has a cephalohematoma.
1. Tell Your Child’s Pediatrician
First, contact your child’s pediatrician immediately. Although newborn cephalohematoma symptoms usually resolve on their own, there is a chance that they can cause brain damage if not diagnosed or treated in time.
2. Seek Diagnostic Tests
Your pediatrician may decide to order diagnostic tests to determine whether your child has a cephalohematoma.
- Physical examinations allow doctors to see whether your child’s head is expanding or growing more than normal.
- Blood tests can show your baby’s red blood cell count compared to the blood in the rest of the body. Results can reveal whether your child has a cephalohematoma.
- Imaging scans like computerized tomography (CT), X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help doctors find the location and size of the cephalohematoma.
3. Find the Right Treatment
If your child’s newborn cephalohematoma symptoms are confirmed by a diagnosis, work closely with their doctor to get your baby prompt and proper treatment.
- Mild cases: Doctors may recommend rest since a mild cephalohematoma can clear up on its own. In most cases, the center part of the hematoma lump dissolves before the outer edges, resulting in a “crater-like” look.
- Severe cases: More severe cases may require surgery to remove blood clots, drain excess blood, and fix bleeding veins.
If your child’s cephalohematoma has caused jaundice, doctors can use phototherapy. Also known as light therapy, phototherapy uses bright, ultraviolet (UV) lights on your child’s skin to treat jaundice.
Babies with cephalohematoma-induced anemia can be treated with blood transfusions.
The earlier your child is diagnosed and treated, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.
Get Legal Help for a Newborn Cephalohematoma
If you believe that your child’s cephalohematoma was caused by medical negligence, you may be eligible to file a birth injury lawsuit to seek compensation for treatment.
Call the compassionate Patient Advocates at the Birth Injury Justice Center at (800) 914-1562 to learn more about your options. You can also get a free case review now to find out how we may be able to help.
Newborn Cephalohematoma Symptoms FAQs
What are the warning signs of cephalohematoma in newborns?
The warning signs of cephalohematoma depend on the severity and type of cephalohematoma.
Here are some common newborn cephalohematoma symptoms and signs:
- Extreme fatigue
- High-pitched crying
- Larger-than-average head size
- Red bump on the baby’s scalp
- Soft spots on the head
- Vomiting and feeding difficulties
What effects does a cephalohematoma have on a baby?
If untreated, your baby may experience the following cephalohematoma complications:
- Anemia: A cephalohematoma can take blood away from the baby’s circulatory system, leading to a low red blood cell count (anemia).
- Calcifications: Cephalohematomas that last more than five weeks may create calcifications (hardened bone deposits) around the bump. This can affect skull formation.
- Infections: Babies with cephalohematomas are more likely to get infections. On rare occasions, a hematoma may lead to life-threatening sepsis, cellulitis, or osteomyelitis (bone infection).
- Jaundice: When a baby’s body absorbs blood from the cephalohematoma, bilirubin levels can rise, leading to jaundice.
How is cephalohematoma treated in newborns?
Cephalohematoma in newborns usually resolves on its own over weeks or months and typically doesn’t require treatment.
Doctors will monitor the condition for complications like jaundice, anemia, or infection. In rare cases, surgery might be necessary to remove calcification.
How much time does cephalohematoma take to heal in a newborn?
You can expect the cephalohematoma bump to disappear in several weeks. Some cephalohematomas require several months to heal completely.
It’s always best to talk to your child’s doctor if they have newborn cephalohematoma symptoms. If the doctor determines that the bump is taking too long to heal, they may drain the pooled blood.