ERNST & YOUNG
Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time, but not every birth goes smoothly. Sometimes, your child might come home with an injury. One common problem is cephalohematoma. Which is a mouthful, but has a simple explanation.
What Is Cephalohematoma?
A cephalohematoma is bleeding between your infant’s skull and scalp. It’s fairly common, occurring in one to two percent of all babies, and is generally fairly benign. The brain is not affected.
The cephalohematoma will be noticeable as a soft bulge on the back of your baby’s skull, with no apparent external injury. It generally doesn’t show up at birth, but rather in the first few days. Cephalohematoma has no other symptoms and causes the baby no problems in the short or long term. Sometimes, there are complications that require treatment and, rarely, long term issues can occur.
What Causes a Cephalohematoma?
Sometimes, there’s no obvious cause – your baby simply hit their head against your pelvis during delivery. However, there are some things that add to the risk:
- An unusually large head and/or a narrow pelvis can increase the chance of the baby’s skull hitting bone.
- The use of forceps or a vacuum device to assist the birth. This can include the use of certain tools during a c-section.
- Weak uterine contractions that don’t push the baby solidly into the birth canal. This can happen if you receive too much pain medication during labor.
- Abnormal position.
- Unusually long labor
- Multiple gestations
The most common cause of cephalohematoma is the use of tools to assist the birth. While a lot of the time, cephalohematoma is simply an accident. It can be caused by negligence if the doctor used tools, if the doctor gave you too many painkillers, or if they did not react correctly to difficult labor.
What Are the Symptoms of Cephalohematoma?
The primary symptom is, as already mentioned, a soft bulge on the back of the skull. This bulge will slowly become harder and then go away. Infants may, however, show signs of anemia (babies don’t have a lot of blood to start with) or jaundice. Some doctors may do X-rays or other scans to ensure that there is not a skull fracture or other problem, particularly if the newborn is showing behavior changes.
In most cases, you will be sent home with your baby, but told to monitor them. Serious symptoms include yellowing of the skin, sclera, or mucous membranes, or if the lump increases in size or multiplies. You should also keep an eye out for odd behavior (sleepiness, increased crying, a change in the type of cry), or feeding difficulties.
The majority of infants will recover on their own in a few weeks. Indeed, it can take as long as three months for the bulge to disappear. Luckily, most cases of cephalohematoma are not serious.
What If It Is More Serious?
In a few cases, your child may develop complications. One common one is anemia, which may necessitate a blood transfusion. The other is jaundice, which is generally treated with light therapy and resolves quickly with treatment. Both of these issues are caused by blood pooling. These are minor complications.
In a few cases, though, it may be an indication of more serious injury during the birth process, which can result in developmental delays or motor skill deficiencies. It’s not the cephalohematoma causing these problems, but damage to the brain from the same injury. An X-ray or CT scan may detect these problems, and it’s often worth having one done so you can at least know that your baby is fine.
Again, the vast majority of cephalohematoma resolve on their own without any treatment, although the bulge on the head can be disturbing. If your child is acting like a normal newborn, then you probably have no cause for concern. Even the most common complications are easily treated. However, if your child does develop symptoms of a significant birth injury, especially if tools were used to assist in the delivery, then you may have a case against the medical practitioner for negligence.
What Should I Do?
Follow your doctor’s instructions to monitor your baby. Don’t rush into assuming there was actual damage, as there most likely wasn’t. If your child shows symptoms of anemia or jaundice, get it treated right away, and keep a note and record of the costs.
However, if your child is showing behavioral changes, then you should speak with a lawyer. You may want a specialist to look at your child, especially if your doctor did not do any tests. It may be hard to determine whether a developmental delay was caused by an injury related to cephalohematoma or other factors. There’s some indication of a connection between cephalohematoma and cerebral palsy, but it’s not yet clear if it’s causative.
Either way, it’s possible that the doctor was responsible for the problem. In that case, you may have a malpractice case to cover your medical costs, distress, and to help with developmental delays.
Again, you should not panic if your child is diagnosed with cephalohematoma. Simply keep an eye on your baby. It can be scary to know your child has a birth injury. However, minor birth injuries are not uncommon and most resolve well with time. If, however, your child has complications with potential long-term effects, then you should contact Weltchek Mallahan & Weltchek for a free initial consultation. We can help you determine whether you have a case for medical malpractice and the best way forward.
Who Can You Trust with Your Case?
Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.
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