There is nothing scarier than when your baby is injured. So when your newborn is placed into your arms for the first time and you notice a distinct swelling on her head, your first instinct is to panic: What does this mean? Is it serious-could it be fatal
What is Cephalohematoma?
Cephalohematoma is a fairly common type of Virginia birth injury. As the infant is being born, its head may push against the sides of the birth canal, causing blood to build up between the scalp and the skull. The blood rushes in, acting as a cushion for the brain, but the “scraping” of the baby’s head along the canal will cause pronounced swelling to the scalp.
Cephalohematoma is often caused by:
- Forceful delivery. If the baby is larger than normal, or if the mother is experiencing her first natural birth, the risk of head trauma is much higher, since the birth canal will be more constricted.
- Vacuum extraction. If your doctor uses a vacuum cap to deliver the child, the risk of swelling is already great-but the added pressure from the cap can increase the bruising under the scalp.
- Forceps delivery. Forceps have been known to cause head injuries in infants, and their hard edges pose a risk to the soft tissue of the baby’s scalp.
It is fairly easy to diagnose a case of cephalohematoma: there will be a soft, squishy mass on the right or left side of the baby’s head. If the mass is larger, it may be firm to the touch. It is vital that your physician does not attempt to drain the hematoma, as forcing a needle into the tissue can greatly increase the risk of infection.
Whether large or small, your physician should monitor your infant’s hematoma carefully. If it is healing properly, the mass should harden over time, and shrink week by week until it eventually disappears. In most cases, the collection of blood will reabsorb into the infant’s body, leaving no trace of the initial injury.
Harmful Effects of a Hematoma
In serious cases, the hematoma could lead to other conditions, such as:
- Anemia or iron deficiency
- Skull fracture. Hematomas can arise as a result of damage to the skull-especially after forceps deliveries.
- Disfigurement. In rare cases, the healed hematoma could cause the head to become misshapen. While this is purely aesthetic and non-life-threatening, you may consider having a neurosurgeon re-contour the baby’s skull.
From the moment they enter the world, children must be protected from people, animals and diseases just waiting to do them harm. Luckily, there is help available when your child has suffered as a result of medical negligence: If someone was responsible for your child’s injury, a trusted Fairfax birth injury attorney not only holds them accountable-we can prevent them from doing it again.