Newborn Cephalohematoma: What It Is and Why It Can Happen During Birth

Cephalohematomas are enlarged bruises that can occur during birth. Experts explain why they form and when the lump on your baby's head will go away.

Sitting Mother Holding Newborn Baby Head Hair
Photo: Sara Nicole Garavuso/Shutterstock

If your baby was born with a cephalohematoma, a pocket of blood (like a bruise) underneath their scalp, you have plenty of new parent company.

Although they may look troubling, cephalohematomas are fairly common (2% of all babies get them) and no cause for concern—they're completely benign and won't cause your baby any pain. In fact, since the lump sits under your baby's scalp, their hair will even grow in right over it.

What is a Cephalohematoma?

A cephalohematoma is a collection of blood under the skin of the scalp. Because of the connections of the tissues there, a cephalohematoma stays on top of one of the skull bones: It does not cross the midline. They can form as a result of increased pressure during birth. Cephalohematomas generally do not present any problem to babies, except for an increased risk of jaundice in the first days.

Sometimes people confuse cephalohematomas with subdural hematomas, which are less common. A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood inside the skull, while a cephalohematomas remains outside the skull. (A subdural hematoma—where the lump is inside the skull, and not visible, can be more problematic.)

Why They Happen

Cephalohematomas are more likely when baby's head is forced up against the pelvic bone during labor or when a vacuum extraction is used to help pull a baby out during delivery. As a result of the increased pressure, small tears in the veins just under the baby's scalp can cause blood to collect in the area, forming a lump.

The lump may be raised and feel like a squishy, water-filled balloon, but it will not hurt your baby or cause them any discomfort or long-term complications.

How to Take Care of a Cephalohematoma

The lump of a cephalohematoma goes away on its own with no treatment needed. It can take weeks or months, with three months being pretty common. Babies with cephalohematomas don't require any special care—just be gentle when running your hands over it during bath time.

Often the middle of the hematoma will start to disappear first while the outer rim gets harder (from calcium). So it sometimes feels like a moon crater to parents before it goes away, but rest assured this is normal and just a sign that the hematoma is slowly fading. And remember, be sure to bring up any concerns you have with your baby's pediatrician, who will be able to guide you on taking caring of a cephalohematoma and monitoring it as it heals.

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