The first time you may hear about Vitamin K may be when you meet your paediatrician at the antenatal visit. Or perhaps you may have heard or read about it in pregnancy books already. Vitamin K is the first injection your baby will be given. Almost immediately after birth, so it is important to be familiar with it. It’s important to ask any questions so you can feel informed and comfortable to give consent for your baby to receive Vitamin K at birth.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a substance found naturally in the body. Vitamin K is essential to help our blood clotting system work by activating certain clotting factors. Vitamin K deficiency places a person at risk of severe bleeding.
Vitamin K deficiency in the newborn
All babies are deficient in Vitamin K at birth. Maternal Vitamin K cannot cross the placenta and only very low levels occur in breast milk.
If this Vitamin K deficiency is not corrected, babies are at risk of Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn HDN). What is now known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). In this condition a baby can experience severe bleeding in the first few weeks or months of life from his/her umbilical cord, mouth or nose, intestine or even inside the brain. This can lead to shock and death without treatment.
Fortunately, this condition is rarely seen these days. This is because almost all babies receive an injection of Vitamin K immediately after birth. VKDB/ HDN is preventable by giving extra Vitamin K at birth.
What Does the Vitamin K Injection Involve?
A single shot of Vitamin K will be given to your newborn baby immediately after birth. It will be administered by either your paediatrician or midwife. The injection is given via a small needle inserted into the upper outer thigh muscle of baby’s leg. One dose is all that is needed for well babies. This will cover them until they begin to build up their own store of Vitamin K.
Are there Any Alternative Ways to Give Vitamin K?
Historically, Vitamin K was given orally to babies, in three doses over a series of weeks (birth, seven days and then six weeks). But all babies born in Cayman receive the Vitamin K via injection. Only a single dose is needed and it is more effective. Formula is fortified with Vitamin K but this is not a substitute for the dose of Vitamin K at birth.
Are there Any Side Effects?
A baby may feel brief discomfort as they receive the injection. There are no other side effects. In the early 1990s it was suggested that Vitamin K injections may increase the risk of leukaemia in children. This has been disproven by many studies. Current scientific evidence shows there is no link between vitamin K and leukaemia.
Have any questions or concerns about Vitamin K? Please discuss these with your paediatrician at your free Antenatal Consultation during your third trimester.