The Importance of Vitamin K Shots for Newborns
When babies are first born, it’s essential to perform various tests and procedural exams to ensure they are healthy. Many of these tests are intuitive, such as weighing and measuring your baby, checking their vital signs, and counting their fingers and toes. But some newborn procedures might seem less intuitive–like giving your baby a vitamin K shot right after birth.
What does vitamin K do, where does it come from, and why would a newborn need a vitamin K shot in the first place?
Vitamin K in the Body
Vitamin K is a vital nutrient that helps our bodies form blood clots. Without vitamin K, our bodies would be susceptible to infection and disease from open wounds. Imagine receiving a deep paper cut, but instead of clotting, it just continues to bleed unabated.
Adults and children get all the vitamin K they need from eating meat, dairy, eggs, and leafy green vegetables. It’s also made from the bacteria in our intestines—the microbiome. However, newborns can’t eat anything beyond breastmilk and formula. Their microbiomes haven’t even begun to make vitamin K yet, and they don’t get very much through the placenta. While they may receive a little bit of vitamin K through breastmilk, it’s not enough to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding
Since newborns don’t have enough vitamin K in their bodies, they are highly susceptible to vitamin K deficiency bleeding. This is a disease where newborns bleed internally or externally, and without enough vitamin K to form blood clots, their bodies can’t stop the bleeding. If left undetected, it can lead to brain damage or death. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding can occur anywhere from one day after birth to six months.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many warning signs of vitamin K deficiency bleeding, so it’s difficult to know if this is happening inside a newborn. A few signs to look out for include: nose bleeds, umbilical cord bleeding, bloody stool, bruising, a yellow tint to the eyes, seizures, and vomiting blood.
While this may sound frightening, there is good news. We can prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding from occurring by giving newborns a vitamin K shot at birth.
How Vitamin K Shots Work
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding among newborns was a huge problem until 1961 when scientists discovered that a vitamin K shot could prevent this condition altogether. Since then, it has become standard practice for newborns. Once they receive the shot, the vitamin K is stored in their liver and released over time. This keeps them safe until they are ready to eat and can produce sufficient vitamin K on their own. The shot is completely safe and can provide parents with much-needed peace of mind.
Here at Rainbow Pediatrics, we understand that vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a little-known disease you might want more information about. Please reach out to us if you have any questions. We’d be happy to talk with you more about it and give you the information you need to prevent this condition in your newborn.