Newborns With Swollen Heads

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Newborn babies are sometimes delivered with a swollen, red or misshapen head. Is this normal? Dr Lee Le Ye from NUH advices

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Does your new born baby’s head look swollen? Or even misshapen?

Sometimes newborns are delivered swollen, red or with a misshapen head. Is this normal? What causes their head to be swollen after birth?

Newborns With Swollen Heads

Answer: Generally, it can be quite a shock for parents to see that their newborn baby’s head immediately after birth can be quite misshapen and swollen. Fortunately, most of these swellings will resolve spontaneously.

The reasons for these swellings are as follow:

1.The baby’s head is the biggest part of the body, it will have to “squeeze” its’ way through the birth canal, hence it undergoes “moulding”, a process where the bones of the skull may temporarily be compressed, thence resulting in a misshapen head.

2.If the birth process is long, a lot of fluid can also accumulate over the head as it is the most dependent part of the baby’s body. This extra fluid accumulation over the head is called “caput” and this will resolve over 1-2 days after birth.

3.For some babies, they can also have some bleeding under the scalp, outside the skull, called “cephalohematoma” which can also lead to bumps on the sides of the head. This however will take months to resolve. If instrumental delivery was neccessary, the babies can also have other swellings related to the instrument use, eg vaccum.

Very rarely, babies had abnormal bone development of the skull and this can cause abnormal skull growth which will require surgical treatment. The paediatrician who examines the baby after birth will be best person to explain the various causes.

Answered by

Dr Lee Le Ye,

Associate Consultant

Department of Neonatology

National University Hospital

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