You will be asked for consent to administer the vitamin K shot soon after your child’s birth — do you know the importance of this decision? It is best to know what the vitamin K shot is all about and why pediatricians stress the importance of taking it. Vitamin K is essentially a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the clotting of blood. If our bodies don’t have enough vitamin K, we will bleed out without clotting. Our bodies cannot produce vitamin K on their own, so we get it from eating green leafy vegetables. It can also be found in the healthy bacteria that lie in our gut (1).
Vitamin K cannot be transferred from the mother to the child through the placenta. Additionally, sufficient amounts of vitamin K are not transferred to the child through breastfeeding either. The small amount of vitamin K present in the baby’s body cannot be used effectively, as the liver is not developed enough to do so. Unlike us, newborns cannot ingest green leafy vegetables, and they also do not have the bacteria necessary for vitamin K in their gut. Because of these factors, newborns have a high likelihood of having vitamin K deficiency. This makes them highly susceptible to bleeding. Keeping all these factors in mind, doctors make it a point to administer the vitamin K shot shortly after the child’s birth.
The Dangers Of Vitamin K Deficiency
Having low levels of vitamin K in the body can be dangerous for your baby. Since they naturally have low vitamin K, they are at a higher risk for a medical condition known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding, or VKDB. Babies with this condition suffer from bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or the head. In addition, if the child is circumcised, there may be bleeding at the circumcision site too. Intracranial hemorrhage or bleeding in the head is a significant cause for concern as it can cause permanent neurological damage, and in some cases, even death (2).
Although all newborns are at risk of Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding, some are more at risk than others. The latter includes babies who have a pre-existing medical condition such as biliary atresia or cystic fibrosis. In addition, babies whose mothers are on anti-clotting or anti-seizure medications are also at higher risk.
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding — When It Shows Up
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding typically can be of three types — early-onset VKDB, classic VKDB, or late-onset VKDB. Babies suffering from early-onset Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding start bleeding within 24 hours after their birth. Babies whose mothers take anti-seizure medication are at risk of developing early-onset VKDB, as these medications lower Vitamin K levels in the body. Early-onset VKDB is the most severe. Classic VKDB occurs within a week after birth, and it usually involves bleeding or bruising around the umbilical cord.
Late-onset VKDB can occur anywhere between two to twelve weeks after the child’s birth; however, it can also happen after six months in rare cases. Over thirty to sixty percent of babies suffering from late-onset VKDB have bleeding in the brain (3).
How Much Should Be Given And In What Form?
In the past, vitamin K was administered to babies in the form of oral transmission. It was either sold in pills or mixed with liquid for intake. However, the practice has diminished over time because it does not work very effectively. Oral dose still exists everywhere but injection shots are widely preferred. Nowadays, it’s ideal that your child gets a vitamin K shot. Administering the vitamin K shot is the safest and the most effective way to prevent Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in your little one. One should keep in mind that all babies have different kinds of developing immunity systems. So the number of doses is determined by the doctor. Even if you are considering giving an oral dose to your kid, it is only possible if your child is healthy with no health complications and is not premature. That’s because a very tiny amount is required by mouth, and sick babies tend to vomit regularly.
If the child is not vaccinated with vitamin K, you will notice that the sensitive skin of the baby is easily bruised and bleeds profusely. Any cuts take longer to heal. There will also be hints of jaundice appearing in the baby who is older than 3 weeks. If there is any complication with the liver development of the child, the effects of vitamin K are reduced. That’s when you go to the doctor for a different course of action.
Potential Side Effects Of The Vitamin K Vaccine
Starting with the common side effects of any injection i.e., bumpy swelling, pain in that area or sometimes redness. The baby might also experience a different taste on the tongue, excessive sweating, have breathing troubles, or a case of pale grey or blue discoloration on the lips or cuticles. The doctors might say that it is normal to occur, but if the condition does not reduce for a long time, it is better to take proper measures. If you are worried about severe allergies, don’t worry about it at all. It is the safest vaccination for babies.
In case of overdose, which otherwise happens rarely, the baby might pass out or faint in a cold sweat. It is very important to keep the baby under observation for a while, or even days if the child has other complications, as it is better to avoid any risk factors. Make sure that your scheduled vaccinations are not missed as the slightest mistake can cause VKDB instantly.
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding often occurs suddenly, with no warning signs. However, you can watch out for unexplained bleeding. This usually shows up on the head, around the umbilical cord, from the nose, or in the stools. Consult your pediatrician immediately if you notice such signs. Having said that, remember to stay calm, not panic and simply take your baby for shots at the right date and time. Have you administered the vitamin K shot for your child? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!