Vitamin K at Birth- Why You Should Do This

Vit KFor over 50 years, here in the US we have been giving newborns a shot of Vitamin K right at birth.  I’ve been a busy pediatrician for over 25 years and have never seen a case of vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), so how do I justify promoting giving this shot?

First, realize this is just a vitamin and should thus be harmless and might be helpful.  I’ve always thought that the reason I haven’t seen any problems is that 99% of my patients get the vitamin K shot at birth.  I have a few who choose to do oral supplementation, but it is likely not as effective and in the US we don’t have any oral preparations of vitamin K for newborns. 

 A Tennessee hospital’s discharge data from 2007 to 2012 showed that there were about half a million live births in the state with no cases of VKDB. There were 4 cases of VKDB in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2013 which spurred the interest in studying this further. None of these 4 got the vitamin K shot. Three were born in hospitals and one in a birthing center. All were healthy and then developed dramatic bleeding between 6 and 15 weeks age. Three had diffuse intra-cranial hemorrhages and the fourth had gastrointestinal bleeding. All four survived, but only one recovered fully.

To my way of thinking, a harmless shot of vitamin K can prevent brain damage.  It seems a worthwhile step to take.  Without vitamin K prophylaxis, about 1% of infants develop early (first 24 hours) or classic (first week of life) VKDB.  Late VKDB usually happens in less than 1 in 10,000 but is estimated to be 81 times more common in those who do not get the vitamin K shot at birth.  The data of this study doesn’t follow the statistics, but it still makes me nervous for those who choose to skip this simple vitamin shot. 


Want to read more? Check out the following links:

Why Do Parents Decline Vitamin K for Their Newborns?

Playing Newborn Intracranial Roulette: Parental Refusal of Vitamin K Injection



Dr. Paul


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