Newborn Cephalohematoma: What It Is and Why It's Nothing to Worry About

Cephalohematomas are quite common when it comes to newborns. 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 his or her scalp, you have plenty of new parent company. Although they may look troubling, cephalohematomas are fairly common (2 percent 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, his hair will even grow in right over it.

Cephalohematomas are more likely when forceps or a vacuum extraction is used to help pull a baby out during delivery or when a baby's head is forced up against Mom's pelvic bone during labor. In response to this minor trauma, small tears in the veins just under the baby's scalp can cause blood to collect in the area, forming a lump. Although the lump will feel like a squishy, water-filled balloon, it doesn't require any special care—just be gentle when running your hands over it during bathtime.

Sometimes people confuse cephalohematomas with subdural hematomas, which are less common. A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood inside the skull, while 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. Cephalohematomas generally do not present any problem to babies, except for an increased risk of jaundice in the first days. (A subdural hematoma—where the lump is inside the skull, and not visible, can be more problematic.)

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. 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.

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