Cephalohematoma is a birth injury that affects up to 2.5 percent of all live births. Even though a cephalohematoma is not life-threatening in most cases, there is the possibility of complications that could result in permanent impairments or life-threatening conditions. Knowing the risks and symptoms associated with cephalohematoma can help parents protect their baby.

What Causes a Cephalohematoma?

Broken blood vessels in the baby’s head caused by trauma during birth can cause a cephalohematoma. Blood collects between the baby’s skull and the periosteum (the membrane covering the skull) from the ruptured blood vessel causing the cephalohematoma.

Because the injury is internal, a cephalohematoma is not often diagnosed right after birth. The blood slowly pools for hours or days within the baby’s skull. Parents may not notice symptoms of cephalohematoma until their baby is a few days old.

The most common symptoms are swelling of the head or a bulge on the baby’s head. In some cases, parents may notice what appears to be bruising on the baby’s head. A doctor might order CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs to determine whether there is additional damage to the baby’s skull or brain. 

How is a Cephalohematoma Treated?

In most cases, blood clots in the baby’s head and the bleeding stops. The blood is reabsorbed into the body. This process could take several weeks or months, depending on the amount of blood and other factors.

Doctors typically do not attempt to drain the blood from the skull. Inserting an instrument into the head to drain the blood could result in infections, abscesses, and other complications. Generally, doctors monitor the baby to ensure that the cephalohematoma disappears on its own.

Some babies could develop complications from a cephalohematoma. Complications include:

  • Anemia
  • Hypotension
  • Infections
  • Skull deformities from calcification of the cephalohematoma
  • Linear skull fractures
  • Jaundice
  • Meningitis 

If a baby develops complications from a cephalohematoma, immediate treatment may be required to prevent further injury or life-threatening conditions. 

Common Causes of Cephalohematoma 

A cephalohematoma can occur during labor and delivery for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons may not be within the control of the doctors or medical staff. Other causes could be attributed to negligence or wrongdoing by the doctors and medical staff.

Some risk factors that can increase a baby’s chance of developing cephalohematoma during labor and delivery include:

  • The use of forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery
  • Prolonged labor and delivery
  • Fetal macrosomia (larger-than-average infants)
  • Abnormal fetal position
  • Weak uterine contractions
  • Multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)

Doctors should analyze the risk factors for cephalohematoma. If a baby has a risk factor, the doctor should inform the parents and monitor the infant carefully for any signs that the baby may have developed a cephalohematoma during birth. Failing to analyze risks and monitor a baby for signs of a birth injury could be considered medical malpractice. 

Medical Malpractice and Birth Injury Claims

Birth injuries are tragic for the parents and the child, especially when some injuries are avoidable. When a doctor’s negligence, errors, or wrongdoing causes a birth injury, the doctor may be guilty of medical malpractice.

Doctors owe a duty of care to their patients. When a doctor breaches the duty of care and an injury occurs, the patient may hold the doctor liable. However, you must prove that the doctor was negligent to hold the doctor financially liable for damages in a birth injury case.

In most cases, you must prove that the doctor:

  • Owed you and your baby a duty of care
  • The doctor breached the duty of care
  • The breach was the direct and proximate cause of the birth injury
  • You and your baby sustained damages because of the birth injury

Proving liability for a birth injury can be complicated. You must have evidence to prove each of the above legal elements of negligence to win a medical malpractice claim. An experienced birth injury attorney can investigate what happened to your baby, including hiring experts who can determine if the doctor or medical staff were negligent in causing the birth injury.

What Damages Can I Recover for a Birth Injury Claim?

If you prove that your baby’s cephalohematoma was caused by negligence or malpractice, you can sue the responsible parties for damages. Damages in a birth injury case might include, but are not limited to:

  • Present and future medical care and treatment
  • In-home personal care and nursing assistance
  • Special education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other forms of therapy
  • Rehabilitation sessions and equipment
  • Loss of future income and decreases in earning capacity
  • Physical, emotional, and mental pain and suffering
  • Scarring, impairments, disabilities, and disfigurement
  • Loss of quality of or enjoyment of life

A monetary award does not undo the harm to your child. However, it does provide compensation that can help your child to receive continued services and assistance.