Vitamin K injection at birth
In many countries around the world, babies receive injection Vitamin K after birth.
Why at such a young age and are there any other alternatives?
What is the role of Vitamin K in the newborn period?
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and its deficiency could cause amongst others to bleeding.
Babies are born with vitamin K deficiency for a few reasons:
▪︎ During pregnancy not enough vitamin K is transferred from the mother to the baby and he is born with low vitamin K stores.
▪︎ Vitamin K depends amongst other things on bacteria growth in the intestines. But at babies’ intestines bacteria only starts growing after birth and do not produce enough vitamin K.
▪︎ The amount of vitamin K in breast milk is low. This on of the few disadvantages of breastfeeding, as you can read here.
Vitamin K deficiency can also happen in premature babies and mothers who have been treated during pregnancy with drugs that impair the absorption or production of vitamin K (mostly Warfarin, some anti-seizure and specific drugs to lower cholesterol levels).
Bleeding in babies which is caused by vitamin K deficiency used to be called Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (the new name is Vitamin K deficiency bleeding) and it addresses bleeding in changing levels and in different organs. The source of the bleeding can be the abdomen area (bloody discharge), from baby’s nose, after circumcision and sometimes even intracerebral.
The diagnosis of this medical condition is confirmed when based on clinical evaluation combined with blood clotting function test.
What are the two forms of Vitamin K deficiency in neonates?
The classic form of the disease usually shows in newborns aged 2-7 days postpartum, mostly in breastfeeding babies that did not receive a boost of the vitamin after birth. Before giving vitamin K to all newborns, the prevalence of the classic disease, in different severities, was 2% of all babies. That is a lot.
The non-classical form of the disease can appear on the first day of the baby, mostly in babies of mothers treated with the drugs mentioned above, or after 7 days old (babies with other medical conditions that prevent the produce or absorption of vitamin K).
So. how to prevent Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?
In many countries, all newborns get a 1mg dose of Vitamin K intramuscular injection, straight after birth. This policy eliminated the prevalence of the classic disease at ages 2-7 days postpartum.
Are there any side effects to Vitamin K injection?
The only side effect is local discomfort.
Anyone who claims there is a connection between giving Vitamin K and cancer is wrong and misleading.
Is there an alternative to the injection?
Vitamin K can also be taken orally 3 times, 1-2mg a dose.
The first dose should be given after birth, the second before hospital dismissal or at the age of 7 days postpartum and the third dose at 3-4 weeks old.
However, it is important to point out that an oral vitamin K is less effective than the injection in preventing the classic disease.
Thus, I strongly recommend to give the baby vitamin K jab after birth, and not to waste energy debating about this issue.