What Does Cephalohematoma Indicate in a Newborn Baby?

Cephalohematoma is the buildup of blood between the baby’s scalp and skull. This condition is essentially bruising and swelling that largely has no negative consequences for the baby.

What Causes Cephalohematoma?

The rupture of blood vessels creates cephalohematoma, which liberates enough blood to create a mass between the skin and the skull. The excessive application of pressure during delivery causes most cases of cephalohematoma. In fact, cephalohematoma is a potential sign of the doctor using delivery tools like forceps and vacuums improperly and forcefully. The risks of developing cephalohematoma also rise if the mother has a very long labor.

Other conditions and situations can cause cephalohematoma during childbirth, including:

  • Weak contractions
  • Small birth canals
  • Larger babies
  • Abnormal fetal positions
  • Multiple babies
  • Prolonged labor
How is Cephalohematoma Diagnosed?

Usually, the formation of bruising and swelling is noticeable enough for the doctor to diagnose the cephalohematoma. However, the doctor may recommend additional testing such as X-rays, ultrasound, and CT and MRI scans to confirm it is cephalohematoma and not a sign of something more severe.

How is Cephalohematoma Treated?

Because cephalohematoma is a mostly benign condition with no lasting consequences, generally no treatment other than continued observation is necessary. The mass of blood simply calcifies after a few weeks and becomes reabsorbed, sometimes creating unusual shapes like craters. Attempting to drain or aspirate the cephalohematoma can complicate matters. The use of a needle in the bruise may lead to the formation of abscesses and infections.

If parents and doctors want to exercise caution, then health care practitioners recommend observation of possible new bulges, complications, and behavioral changes.

What are the Complications of Cephalohematoma?

While complications of cephalohematoma are rare, they may sometimes develop. Infants born with cephalohematoma are more likely to develop anemia or jaundice.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition where the patient’s bone marrow fails to produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are essential, as they carry oxygen throughout the body. Anemia in newborns may occur when their bodies grow too much to produce enough red blood cells to keep up, when the red blood cells break out fast due to a mismatch between the baby and mother’s blood, or when the baby loses too much blood.

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Irregular breathing
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Low energy and lethargy

The internal bleeding created by cephalohematoma can noticeably lower the red blood cell count of the baby. A blood transfusion can relieve anemia by increasing the number of red blood cells in the baby. Other treatments of anemia that assist in the creation of red blood cells include a proper diet.

What is Neonatal Jaundice?

Cephalohematoma can also increase the risk of neonatal jaundice, which is the increase of the yellow pigment bilirubin in red blood cells. The increase of the pigment emerges from conditions that break down red blood cells, such as cephalohematoma. Jaundice in a newborn also develops from a weak or underdeveloped liver incapable of absorbing enough of the bilirubin, or another underlying disease.

Jaundice is usually benign and does not require much treatment beyond a doctor’s observation. The condition mostly manifests through mild occurrences of yellow-tinted skin, eyes, and mucus. Severe cases of jaundice may increase the possibility of brain damage in certain children. The following are signs of severe jaundice or excess bilirubin complications:

  • Increase in yellow skin pigmentation
  • Other areas of the body, such as legs, arms, and abdomen, look yellow
  • Difficulty awakening the baby from rest
  • Difficulty eating and gaining weight
  • Acts sickly or listless
  • High-pitched crying
  • Development of other concerning signs or symptoms