Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting. Newborns have a very small amount of this vitamin, which means they are at risk of the hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN). This vitamin injection is a preventive measure against HDN. The following article provides information on this injection, prescribed dosage and its side effects.
Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Though it is produced by our body, the quantity is not enough to meet the daily requirements of the body. 1 out of 10,000 newborns in US are affected by the vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). Administering a vitamin K injection to infants is a common practice in the US. VKDB is classified into early onset, classic onset, and late onset hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. The early onset disease is quite rare, and is characterized by bleeding within 24 hours of birth. The classic onset VKDB is rare too, and affects breastfed infants who did not receive a vitamin K shot within the first week after birth. The late onset VKDB is observed in babies who didn’t receive a vitamin K shot, and affects babies in the age group of 2 weeks to 2 months. The characteristic signs of VKDB include bleeding in the lining of the nose and mouth, belly button, blood in the urine and bowel movement, and bruising. In the acute cases, the baby may be affected by hemorrhage/internal bleeding of the brain, which occurs after the first week of birth.
Injection at Birth
Most of the poorly breastfed babies, are susceptible to VKDB, as the beneficial bacteria enter the baby’s digestive system from breast milk. Usually, newborns might lack this vitamin, as it is produced by the friendly bacteria. Even if the baby is breastfed at a later stage, the amount of vitamin produced, does not fulfill the baby’s requirement. The babies who are fed formula, are more prone to VKDB than the breastfed ones. Though formula food contains this vitamin, it cannot match the vitamin levels of the colostrum. Hence, breastfeeding the baby immediately after birth is the best, as the colostrum contains this vitamin in its natural form, in required quantities.
When the baby is not getting the required dosage of this vitamin, there are chances of severe consequences like internal bleeding, blood transfusions, or death. The baby is administered this vitamin injection, to prevent the aforementioned consequences. It is necessary even for the premature babies, babies born of a breech delivery, and those with certain inborn liver diseases. There are a few other cases in which the injection becomes necessary. For instance, the shot needs to be administered, if the mother was taking anticonvulsants.
The administration of these injections to newborns has been a controversial issue due to the fact that larger doses of this vitamin can cause jaundice amongst newborns. Hence, many researchers suggest that the babies should be given an oral dose instead of an injection. If necessary, the injection dose should always be less than 0.5 mg, while the oral dose should be around 200 mcg per week, for 5 weeks. Including 2.5 mg of foods rich in vitamin K or the vitamin supplements for the nursing mother, for 10 weeks after the childbirth, is also recommended.
Apparently, different researchers have different perspectives about this injection. Some experts suggest that a moderate dose is always ideal, while the others do state the possibilities of several side effects. Some researchers state that the injection increases the risk of childhood leukemia and several other types of cancer, which are avoidable in normal conditions. To stay away from the possible complications, it is better to provide gradual oral dosage of this vitamin to the infant, as well as the mother.
In most cases, it is possible that the baby may demonstrate low levels of this vitamin at birth, which is why the vitamin needs to be administered. On a concluding note, importance must be given to breastfeeding and inclusion of this vitamin in the diet of a nursing mother. Administration of gradual doses of this vitamin for infants can help lower the risk of adverse effects.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.