Thrive Birth Center Blog

VITAMIN K FOR NEWBORNS

There are so many decisions to be made for your newborn baby…….and it’s important to start researching and educating your self before your birth! What ever you decide should be listed in your birth plan.

The medical model of care is for every newborn baby to have a Vitamin K injection within 24 hours after birth to prevent Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB).

The following information is intended to help educate and inform you of your choices.

What is VKDB?

Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding is a non-inherited disorder that can occur in babies during the first 6 months of life. There are three different types of VKDB.

  • Early onset VKDB present with bruising or spontaneous bleeding within the first 24 hours of life.

  • Classic onset VKDB is the most commonly seen and occurs within the first week of life.

  • Late onset VKDB typically present by 6 weeks of life, but can occur in babies up to 6 months old.

When bleeding occurs early on it may resolve on its own or may be treatable with vitamin K supplementation. Classic onset VKDB usually responds well to treatment. Late onset VKDB is the most severe and damaging type of bleeding. It is typically caused by liver disease or absorption problems. This is seen primarily in exclusively breast-fed babies.

VKDB can have devastating effects on a baby. Intracranial bleeding can occur very rapidly and can result in long term brain damage or death. Depending on the severity in which the hemorrhage occurs will effect how severely the baby is affected.

Frequency of VKDB:

VKDB is a life threatening disease, yet is considered rare. The incidence of bleeding is between 3: 2,000 and 1:10,000 babies. Of the babies affected by VKDB 1 out of 5 will die.

Risk Factors of VKDB include, but are not limited to :

Prematurity

Jaundice

Maternal use of anti-coagulant, anti-convulsant or anti-tubercular drugs

Traumatic birth

Vacuum or forceps delivery

Inadequate nursing in the first days of life

What is Vitamin K? 

Vitamin K is an essential factor in the production of several substances needed for blood clotting. It is a fat soluble vitamin that occurs naturally in the body, and is absorbed in the gut. Normal intestinal bacteria play an important role in the production of vitamin k. Newborn babies are born with out this bacteria and are unable to start the production of vitamin k the first few weeks of life.

There are many natural sources of vitamin k including alfalfa, olive oil, liver, cows milk and dark leafy green vegetables. No matter how rich in Vitamin K a mothers diet is , almost all babies are still born with very low levels at birth.

How is Vitamin k given?

Vitamin K can be given as a single injection into the muscle at the top of the baby’s leg.

The injectable Vitamin K is shown to be the most effective prevention against late onset bleeding.

Side Effects of Vitamin K injection:

Pain and redness at the injection site

Rash

Mild bruising

Local infection

Jaundice- as the liver is working harder to process a foreign substance

All medications carry the risk of a allergic reaction, anaphylactic shock and death

vit k photo.jpeg

Vitamin K can also be given in a liquid form that is given orally. The baby must receive a 2g dose ( 4 drops) of Bio-K-Mulsion after birth, followed by a 1 gram dose ( 2 drops) every week for 12 weeks.

International studies have shown the oral supplement to be very effective, but it must be given carefully to insure that the whole dose is swallowed by the baby, and that follow up dose are given on time. Failure to do so may put your baby at risk of VKBD.

**Bio-K-Mulsion is a high quality vitamin supplement that is used regularly in the midwifery community but it has not been approved by the FDA for use in newborns.

The most important aspect in making the decision about vitamin K supplementation is understanding all of the information before the baby is born. This is the time to spend researching and educating your self. This is one of the first decisions you will make as new parents and it will reinforce what responsibilities are placed on you in this roll.

All parents, and especially those who chose to make the informed choice to decline vitamin K therapy, should learn and know the early signs of VKDB. This is essential in obtaining early treatment to reduce the severity if bleeding should occur.

-Spontaneous bruising

-Bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, umbilicus or digestive tract 

-Prolonged jaundice

-Pale stools or dark urine 

**Because the majority of babies have received Vitamin K therapy at birth, most pediatricians tend to assume that all babies have been treated. It is essential that you tell you pediatrician or any provider that is treating your baby that your child has not received vitamin K, especially if you are concerned about any of the above warning signs.

Please talk with your Midwife or Doctor if you have any questions. Feel free to reach out to Thrive Birth Center as well, we’re happy to answer any questions for you.