There is a lot going on when the baby is born. Doctors weigh them and measure height etc. their vitals are tested such as blood pressure. Then they suction the nose. The doctors also put some ointment or drops into their eyes and do a thorough check-up to ensure overall well-being. They make sure the baby does not have side effects and deficiencies that can cause problems later on.
Like other minerals and vitamins, they make sure that the baby has enough vitamin k to avoid blood clotting, etc. Therefore, the newborn gets its first vaccine for polio and hepatitis and then gets a regular shot of vitamin K.
If you have a new baby or are wondering why doctors put so much stress on the importance of vitamin K for a newborn, you are in the right place. This guide aims to discuss the role of vitamin K in a newborn baby’s life.
What is Vitamin K?
It is one of the essential vitamins that the human body requires for optimal functioning. It plays an important role in maintaining the best health by helping blood clot and having good blood consistency. This vitamin is also useful in avoiding severe bleeding in newborns.
Why is Vitamin K important for Infants?
It helps the baby’s body clot at the right time and place to avoid serious bleeding that ultimately leads to deficiencies and death. Babies cannot get the required vitamin K naturally from the mother at the time of pregnancy.
Newborn babies live on breast milk, but breast milk also does not offer enough vitamin K to stay healthy and fit, which ultimately leads to vitamin K deficiency in newborns.
In case your baby is dealing with vitamin K deficiency, they might be on the verge of developing a disease known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. However, it is a rare but serious disease. In this disease, the baby’s blood fails to clot and stops bleeding. It causes them to bleed excessively and may cause them to bleed into the brain. This situation is alarming because it may result in brain damage and even death.
How is vitamin K given to babies?
Infants require optimal consumption of vitamin K right after birth to avoid vitamin K deficiency diseases. In many countries, vitamin K is available in baby-friendly medication, such as in the form of drops or injections.
If you prefer to provide medicine to the baby orally, you can go for the drops. Otherwise, the injection option is always available. The doctors always make sure to offer the baby vitamin h right after birth. However, you can ask the doctor if your baby has not received it and make sure to take it before leaving the hospital.
It is an invasive method. It causes a bit of pain to the baby, but it works efficiently. The primary advantage of this essential vitamin injection is that the injection is usually given through the muscles in the thigh. Therefore, your infant will not require more than one.
The injection of vitamin K is more effective in hemorrhage disease control in newborns. Anyhow, the positive also bring some negative effects. The only notable disadvantage of this method is that it causes pain, and minimal bruises may also appear where the injection was given. Timely, it is painful, but it fades away with the passage of time.
It is a non-invasive and rather convenient method. The oral vitamin K is convenient to handle and can be absorbed smoothly and efficiently. There is no need for professional assistance, you can give your baby the dose by yourself, or a midwife can also give it.
Babies require two doses of vitamin K in the first week of birth and the other one in the following month. The vitamin k medicine you have is formula driven. You can add it to the bottle; otherwise, you can directly put it into the mouth.
The major drawback of this method is that there is no surety that the vitamin K will be absorbed as they are likely to vomit every other feed at this age.
Does vitamin K have any side effects?
Vitamin K in the newborn is not associated with potential side effects. It has been used by many healthcare providers for more than 30 years. Many studies have taken place to study if vitamin K injection in childhood cancer has any connection. Thorough studies have suggested that vitamin K injections have no potential connection and even it is beneficial for babies. It has been proven that there is no connection between cancer as well as vitamin K injections.
If your baby has not had the vitamin K injection or completed three doses of oral drops, it is necessary to take care of the following:
Baseless or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
If the baby starts showing signs of jaundice once he or she is three weeks old.
In case your baby is showing any such signs, you need to contact the doctor immediately and explain the situation. Anyhow, if your baby is dealing with liver problems, they are at risk of high bleeding even if they have already taken the suggested dose of vitamin K.
How to Determine if the baby has a vitamin K deficiency?
It is an important question and worth considering when the baby is stillborn. In case the baby is dealing with vitamin K deficiency, they may have exceptional bleeding for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, many babies suffering from hemorrhage disease in their newborns do not show any warning signs before the excessive or life-threatening disease.
Anyhow newborn babies suffering from vitamin k deficiency can show the following symptoms:
Excessive and pointless bleeding from the nose or umbilical cord of the baby.
Unreasonable bruising is evident around the neck, face, and head of the baby.
The babies have dull or paler skin color than normal or may have yellow gums.
The baby is spitting the blood, including vomiting.
If the eyes of a three weeks old baby turn yellow, it means he or she is having vitamin K deficiency.
The visible presence of blood in the baby’s poop is a sign of deficiency, and it looks dark, sticky as well as black.
The baby keeps sleeping and when wakes up he is irritable. He can also experience seizures or blood in the vomiting, which is due to the bleeding in the brain.
What does Vitamin K do in the body?
It is a fat-soluble substance that is required for essential clotting in the newborn baby. This vitamin is named after the word Koagulation, which is a German term for clotting. The human body cannot produce vitamin K by itself and even score very well in the body. To fulfill the requirement the baby requires medication, but the pregnant mother gets vitamin K1 from leafy vegetables. Similarly, humans can take vitamin K2 from the bacteria that live in the human intestinal tracts.
However, the vitamin k you receive from green vegetables and plants makes up 90% of the whole vitamin K levels. On the other hand, the vitamin that we get from bacteria only makes up 10% of the total vitamin.
Anyhow here are some vitamin k rich foods for optimal health:
Cauliflower, leafy vegetables including swiss chard, collards, kale, Spanish, and many more.
The optimal level of vitamin K in the body is essential to activate particular molecules that are useful in blood clotting. The blood clotting molecules are present in adequate quantity at the time of birth, but they are not fully functional due to considerably low levels.
In case a human does not have an adequate level of vitamin K prophylaxis, then they cannot get blood clotting molecules functional. So, the optimal vitamin K level is essential to make our blood vessels clot and stop bleeding.
For many parts of the body, our body keeps clotting appropriately even with low vitamin K. However, as the level keeps declining, the body reaches the point where it cannot produce clotting naturally, and we keep bleeding. The level at which the body stops producing clots is different for every person. So it is entirely unpredictable when the bleeding will occur and when it will stop.
What Happens if Baby Lacks Vitamin K?
The lack of vitamin K in the blood is dangerous to health. It can cause sudden bleeding without reason or warning. There are mainly two different problems that vitamin k deficiency to the body causes. It includes:
This is a major condition caused by vitamin K deficiency and when babies are unable to stop bleeding. The bleeding can start anywhere inside or outside of the body. When the bleeding happens on the outside of the body it is immediately noticed, but if it is happening inside the body, it is really hard to track out.
Generally, a baby dealing with vitamin K deficiency bleeding will bleed into the intestines or into the brain, which results in brain damage and eventually death. The babies who do not get vitamin K at the time of birth are likely to develop VKDB at any time in the span of 6 months of age.
Types of VKDB
There are different types of VKDB which are classified according to the time and occurrence. The VKDB can be secondary or idiopathic.
Idiopathic VKDB: the reason for this is still unknown. However, according to a survey, all the babies that are dealing with idiopathic VKDB are excessively feeding on the breast.
Secondary VKDB: babies with this kind show that they have an underlying disorder such as disease related to gallbladder, cystic fibrosis, as well as multiple medication side effects. Excess of everything is bad, so make sure to feed your body to avoid complications optimally.
The vitamin K bleeding deficiency is further divided according to variating patterns. It includes
Early VKDB: as the name indicates, it happens in the first 24 hours after birth. It is mostly seen in babies whose mothers used to take medicines that disturb the vitamin k cycle in the children. It can be cured by simple medicines, including warfarin, tuberculosis medication as well as seizure medications. In this type, the bleeding is generally witnessed in the abdomen, brain, and certain parts of the skin.
Classical VKDB: This kind of bleeding in babies is usually seen from 2 to 7 days. Bleeds that can happen 2nd or 3rd day after birth are also known as classical vitamin k deficiency bleeding. It happens when the vitamin k level is lowest in the body. In this type, the common bleeding site includes the umbilical cord, skin, and nose. The gastrointestinal system as well as the incision site. Anyhow the major and prominent cause of this condition is still unknown but, in most cases, poor feeding and excessive breastfeeding are considered the important factors.
Late VKDB: the excessive bleeding that happens after the initial week of life is known as late vitamin k deficiency bleeding. It usually occurs anytime between 3 to 6 months after birth. In this case, the bleeding is generally seen in the area of the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and skin.
The bleeding in the skull through the brain is considered the major indication of late VKDB. It happens due to excessive breastfeeding without enough shots of vitamin K. Some babies are at a high risk of this disease if they have not faced gallbladder disease, chronic diarrhea, and antibiotic use.
Why are babies likely to have Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding?
All babies, no matter which race, gender, or ethnicity, are at high risk of developing VKDB until they become eligible to eat proper food. It can take up to 4 to 6 months. Once they come to a normal diet, the body will start making it. It happens because:
At the time of birth, the babies have very little vitamin K stored in the body, and only a small amount of vitamin K manages to pass through the placenta. From their mothers.
The useful bacteria that play a crucial role in developing vitamin K in the intestine of newborn babies are not present at the time of birth.
Newborns are fed on breastmilk. And it contains a minimal amount of vitamin k, so it does not fulfill the requirement of vitamin K for a baby.
What Can Cause VKDB?
There are many factors along with vitamin K that put babies at a high risk of developing vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
First of all, the infant does not get the required shot of vitamin k at the time of birth. The changes become manifold when they are just surviving on breast milk.
Pregnant women who consume certain medicines such as isoniazid, medicines to treat seizures. These medicines disturb vitamin k production.
Babies who are suffering from liver diseases are also prone to have vitamin k deficiency.
Infant with other health problems, including celiac acid, or cystic fibrosis, faces considerable trouble facing vitamin k.
How often are babies affected by VKDB?
As babies younger than six months are likely to develop vitamin K deficiency bleeding, the problem is further categorized:
Classic and sometimes early vitamin k deficiency bleeding is common, occurring in 1 in 60s babies and varies to 1 in 150 infants. Anyhow the possibilities of babies whose mothers are taking particular medicines are more likely to develop the problem.
The last one, late VKDB, is rare and occurs in every 1 in 14000 children.
Children who do not get enough doses of vitamin K shot at the time of birth are 81 times more likely to develop it as compared to those who have already received it at the time of birth.
Hemorrhage disease of the newborns
It is the rarest yet deadly condition in newborn babies. It is a problem that newborns can face right after birth due to lack of vitamin K. It is an excessive bleeding condition that poses threats to life. A positive shot of Vitamin K can be a game-changer for the baby.
Symptoms of Hemorrhagic disease
If your baby is already dealing with VKDB, it can show multiple signs indicating the failure to thrive before the occurrence of this serious event. Its symptoms are:
Gradual increase in weight
Low weight for a baby of your age.
Anyhow the bleeding can occur at one of many different areas and sometimes at a point. These areas can be the following:
The umbilical cord
The gastrointestinal tract
The pinched area or where they got vaccinated
The mucous membranes of their mouth as well as nose.
You can also witness the stool in their blood as well as urine. The bruising can also appear, or sometimes a lump also shows up before this horrific excessive bleeding. There is a condition named hematoma that happens when the blood vessels under your scalp rupture at the time of delivery.
However, this hematoma can be resolved automatically, but if it occurs in the head, it is a prominent symbol of hemorrhage disease in the newborn.
How is it diagnosed?
If the hematoma is consistently appearing on the head or the doctor feels that the baby is going through VKBD condition, he will give a baby vitamin K shot. The hematoma or excessive bleeding disappears or stops; the healthcare provider would be assured that the baby is leading to a hemorrhage.
Once the cause has been determined, the doctor will make a plan for effective treatment. The treatment can include blood transfusion in case of severe bleeding.
How to prevent HDN?
In case you are breastfeeding your baby, communicate with your doctor about your concerns and ask for suggestions. According to research, every newborn baby should receive an optimal dose of vitamin K right after birth to avoid later inconvenience. The timely dose will definitely help prevent VKDB and hemorrhage disease.
How do I get vitamin K for my baby?
When you are pregnant, you have to set up a healthcare provider who will monitor your case and timely prescribe the medicines according to it. During the pregnancy, your doctor or healthcare provider will tell you about vitamin K. They will also thoroughly explain the benefits and disadvantages of offering your baby by injection.
Once you make the decision, your doctor or healthcare provider will not put it down in his or her notebook. Your baby will receive vitamin k right after birth according to your decision of method.
In case you have decided to give your baby vitamin K through the mouth, then your body will require two additional doses to complete the course and avoid the deficiency. The first dose is already given, but for the second dose, if you do not have it at home, you have to visit the hospital at the same time your baby has his screening test. You can also choose to visit a local doctor for the other dose.
On the contrary, if you are giving delivery at home by the hands of midwives, make sure to talk to your midwife about giving vitamin K to the baby. The midwives are experts at giving birth at home, but they need to have all essential equipment available for a planned home birth, such as the injection of vitamin K.
Can other ingredients present in Vitamin K injection Cause problems for the baby?
Vitamin K is important for the overall well-being of your baby and throughout life. Therefore, different research and innovation have made it useful and safe for a newborn baby. In the injection, vitamin K is the main ingredient making it a pretty safer shot.
However, the main ingredient does not mean that it is the only ingredient. Other ingredients are also essential to keep the ingredient mixed and required. The other ingredients are also helpful in keeping the liquid vitamin from being too acidic. Moreover, one of the ingredients present in the vitamin K injection is benzyl alcohol which acts as a preservative. It is a general ingredient in multiple medications.
In the late 1900s, healthcare providers noticed that premature babies who were placed in intensive care units were sick due to benzyl alcohol which is a preservative. Anyhow, the toxicity was only visible for a few infants, but since that day, doctors have been cautious. They try to keep the amount minimal in any medication for premature infants.
The minimal dose of benzyl alcohol in the vitamin K doses is not enough that can be dangerous. Moreover, when they are given while combined with other medication, this preservative is always present and does to cause any potential damage.
Why do infants breastfeeding not have Adequate Vitamin K?
There is multiple logic why babies relying on breastfeeding do not have an adequate level of Vitamin K in their body. Initially, babies are born with very restricted amounts of this compound. Its level is the lowest at least for the first 2 or 3 days. They cannot reach the optimal level until they are six months old.
Babies who are breastfeeding are generally low in vitamin K because, at the time of birth, very little amount of vitamin K is transferred to the baby. As babies do not have active molecules to produce vitamin K in their intestines, they gradually face a severe decline in the required level.
Breast milk contains a minimal amount of vitamin K. It contains only 1 to 9 grams per liter which is very low for a healthy baby.
Usually, all babies with late VKDB are only seen to be relying on breastfeeding. When the researcher took a deep look into the matter, they realized that mothers contain enough doses of vitamin K to at least maintain healthy clotting, but there is a problem with babies absorbing it from the milk.
Can a Dose of Vitamin K be too much for a baby?
Not at all! The dose decided for newborn babies is never too much. The dose given to infants of vitamin K is usually high as compared to the daily requirement, but keep in mind that babies have no ability to produce vitamin K by themselves when they are born. Moreover, they will not have a good supply of this vitamin till they are more than half a year old.
It is due to the fact that vitamin K cannot cross the placenta and the mother’s milk contains very low levels of vitamin K. the first dose of vitamin goes directly into the bloodstream of the newborn and gives a significant boost to the level.
This does fulfill the requirement of Vitamin K in the body so the level in infants does not drop dangerously low in the initial week. Most of the vitamin K enters the body through the dose stores in the liver, which is later utilized by the clotting molecules to stop the blood. The rest of the vitamin K is released gradually out of the system in the span of 2 to 3 months. Providing a continuous source of vitamin K until the infant is eligible to support the system is essential.
Can the Vitamin K increase in Breast Milk if the Mother takes in Multivitamins or maternal Vitamin K supplements?
The new mothers are usually encouraged to consume healthy food and also use different multivitamins according to requirement. Anyhow consuming food that is high in vitamin K or relying on vitamin K supplements can actually increase the element of vitamin K in breast milk. However, it does not increase to the extent of fulfilling the requirements of the body of a newborn.
When newborn babies are born, they are already low on vitamin K. At these points; the infants require enough level of vitamin K to increase that significantly low level. With the significant boost, the body will start storing the compounds in the liver for the sake of future use. It also ensures good health as well as stronger bones.
Adding vitamin K sources to the daily diet is actually beneficial for the mother. It increases vitamin K’s presence in the breast-feeding blood, but still, it is not eligible to offer enough vitamin K for optimal body functioning and required clotting.
What can be Done to Make the Vitamin K Shots Less Painful?
Just like all other human beings and living organisms, newborn babies also feel equal pain. The only difference is that I cannot express the pain in words. Therefore, it is important to consider their situation yourself and take necessary measures to reduce the level of discomfort.
Infants also feel less pain from the vitamin K shots if they are carefully helped and allowed to stick. You can ask your doctor to let you hold the baby while giving him a vitamin K shot so you can comfort the baby right away.
The other method to calm down the baby is to breastfeed while giving the dose, and after that, they can be comforted very easily. All these things parents are suggested to minimize the pain of the baby.
Remember that if your baby is not getting the shot of vitamin K, his or her lives are at risk of developing severe bleeding. Their chances are 81 times higher than the others who have gotten the shots. The diagnosis and treatment are also pretty painful procedures because the process involves repeated draws of blood.
Why are Babies Living on Formula-fed are not Vitamin K deficient?
There is no report of vitamin k Deficiency in formula-fed babies. It is because formula milk is thoughtfully prepared to fulfill every requirement of the baby. It is different from breast milk and contains a relatively high level of vitamin K1. Formula milk contains 55 milligrams of vitamin K per liter.
On average, infants who are fed formula milk get about ten times more vitamin K than babies who are living on breastfeeding. Moreover, the vitamin K level in the blood of a six weeks old baby living on breast milk is around 0.13 milligrams. On the other hand, 0.6 is considerably high and optimal for a baby.
Does Circumcision Manifold the Requirement for Vitamin K Injection?
It is often considered the major site of bleeding when babies are facing classical vitamin k deficiency bleeding. It usually takes place when vitamin K is the lowest in newborn babies when they are 2 to 3 days old.
Those babies who get circumcised and whose parents do not care about vitamin K are likely to experience excessive bleeding. Research conducted in the 1960s proved that the optimal dose of vitamin K at the time of birth significantly reduces the chances of excessive bleeding.
Children who are born on an odd number of days, such as premature birth, get the dose of vitamin K in the first 24 hours, whereas the other babies who are born on even days do not. Usually, the babies do not face circumcision bleeding, but 6 out of 240 babies are likely to experience it.
Why is Vitamin K Injections Preferred Over Oral Medication?
The medicine entered the body through the injection directly into the blood. Moreover, Vitamin K syringes are considered the better method due to many notable reasons, including:
It brings down the possibility of VKDB to zero in newborn babies.
There is no proven version of oral dose present in the medical industry. Some people use it, but no clinical trial has given 100% results.
The dose of vitamin K in the form of injection is efficiently absorbed by the newborn’s body.
As the dose directly goes into the bloodstream, its release gets delayed. Hence, it provides long protection against both classical as well as bleeding.
Are there Side effects of Other Ingredients in the Dose?
Many parents are too conscious about the usage of propylene glycol. It is present in most medicines as it helps in better absorption into liquid. There has not been any case reported about the side effects of propylene glycol.
If any case has been reported, it was due to extremely high doses. In the infants’ medicines, the doses are thoughtfully set according to age. As far as the allergic shot reaction related to vitamin K is concerned, all the cases occurred in the intravenous form.
Therefore, the side effects caused by vitamin K are rare. Rarely it happens due to site irritation and redness. Anyhow, whatever side effect has been witnessed, it is always due to high doses. All you can expect is pain due to injection; otherwise, there is no sign of side effects.
What are the Consequences of Late VKDB?
It is the rearrest form of VKDB, but it can have catastrophic consequences. Most of the children who experience this problem show bleeding in the brain. However, the mortality rate of vitamin K deficiency bleeding is around 20%.
The mortality rate varies according to country. In third-world countries, many infants die before reaching the hospital. As they are a less privileged country where the facilities of medical services are not acceptable, their deaths are not registered so they are not counted in any sort of deficiency and mortality statistics.
The only and most dangerous thing about the VKDB is that people may not figure it out until it’s already too late. Newborn babies cannot communicate in words what they are going through. Moreover, the bleeding is internal, so it is hard to figure out the problem.
Before parents understand that there is something wrong with their baby, the brain shrinks to a critical size before seeking medical assistance. If the parents understand that the baby has some problem, the healthcare provider will also take time to understand, and it might get late.
Vitamin K is one of the essential vitamins for optimal health. It is as important for newborns as for adults. Newborn babies require more attention because they lack the molecules responsible for producing vitamin K in the intestine.
If you feel any sign in your newborn baby related to Vitamin K deficiency bleeding, immediately take your baby to the doctor for timely assistance. Timely assistance can save your baby’s life otherwise it can be deadly.
Also interesting to read:
- Newborn To Baby – A Guide To Be A Pro Parent
- How to Play with a Newborn? Best Activities to Engage your Baby
- One month old baby milestones, development, feeding & activities
- What is Baby Sleeping Solutions?: How should you Sleep Train, your Baby?
- Bringing Newborn Baby Home from the Hospital
- What is Colic? How can it be Treated?
- What is Baby Blues? How does it Affect a Mother’s Life?
- Moms Act – A Step to Bring Ease for New Mothers
- What is Atrial Septal Defect? How it Affects the Baby’s life?
- How to Ensure Baby’s Good Health? – A Guide to be a Pro Parent