Vitamin K is important because it helps blood clot. Around one in every 10,000 babies is born with low amounts of vitamin K, meaning they are more at-risk of bleeding. If these babies suffered internal bleeding problems, they may not have enough vitamin K to prevent a serious bleed. The risk of internal bleeding problems is prominent during the first 13 weeks of a baby’s life. This is known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) or Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN).
Bleeding is a very serious problem for babies. Some babies may suffer bleeding during the first week of life. This could be bleeding from the nose, umbilical stump or bottom, or could even appear as spontaneous bruising. Sometimes bruising is from forceps or vacuum (ventouse) use during the delivery. Some babies experience late onset bleeding which occurs over a week after the birth date. Over half of all babies who suffer a late bleed, will have an intracranial bleed into their brain. This can cause brain damage, and can be fatal for some babies.
Does my baby need the vitamin K shot?
Some factors have been identified as high risk for VKDB, including babies who:
- were born born prematurely
- suffered breathing problems at birth
- were born by ventouse / vacuum, forceps or caesarean surgery
- were bruised during the birth
- had liver problems or were poorly at birth
- breastfed babies who are not feeding well
- were born to mothers who took epilepsy, tuberculosis or clotting medication during the pregnancy
However, a third of all babies who experience VKDB do not fit into any of the categories above. It is very difficult to tell which babies are most at risk of VKDB. For this reason, experts advise that all babies be given the shot immediately after birth. Without this, a very small number of babies born each year would suffer brain damage or die as a result of VKDB.
How is the shot administered?
Your baby will be offered the shot shortly after the birth, and this is usually something you consent to or oppose in advance. The injection is the most effective and efficient way to increase your baby’s vitamin K levels for a greater length of time.
If you prefer, you can request that the dose is taken orally, and some parents choose to do this instead. If you opt for this method, your baby will be given two doses during the first week of life, and may then be offered a third dose when your baby is a month old.
You can choose not to give your baby vitamin K at all. Whichever decision you make, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider in advance and ensure you are fully informed before making the decision.
Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.