After a long nine months of forgoing all kinds of medications and chemicals while supplementing every meal with high doses of vitamins, you might be wondering what your newborn is being injected with after you’ve given birth. In addition to the Apgar examination and the general check ups your doctor will give your baby after delivery, he or she will probably give your baby a vitamin K oral supplement or shot. There has been some controversy surrounding the vitamin and its supplementation to newborn babies over the years, but studies show that is highly recommended in the prevention of conditions common to babies with a vitamin K deficiency.

Naturally, green foods such as kale, spinach, and collards are high in vitamin K. Even if you purposely eat these foods in high volume during your pregnancy and take a maternal vitamin K supplement, your baby still might be deficient when he or she is born. This is because vitamin K does not travel through the placenta as easily as other vitamins based on its chemical structure. There are also minimal amounts of vitamin K in breast milk.

Babies who are deficient in vitamin K are at risk for a condition called Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). The lack of vitamin K makes their bodies unable to coagulate their blood, so common incision sites and strained areas of the body might bleed profusely and cause permanent damage. These sites include the belly button area after the umbilical cord was cut, the penis after circumcision, the mucus membranes, the gastrointestinal tract, and any areas where a shot has been administered. The disease can be treated with vitamin K supplements as long as it is diagnosed early enough, but a vitamin K shot after birth is the best way to prevent it entirely.

All babies are at risk for the disease since vitamin K is hard to consume in the womb, but preterm infants and those born to mothers who were taking blood-thinning medications are even more at risk.

After you’ve given birth, make sure your baby receives vitamin K, either orally or by injection. Even after the vitamin has been administered, keep an eye out for any unexplained bleeding in the first few months of your baby’s development. If you notice blood in the urine or stool, or excessive bruising, you should notify your doctor immediately and have your baby’s blood tested.

Source: Veronica Flood et al: Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn Despite Vitamin K Prophylaxis at Birth. Pediatric Blood and Cancer Volume 50 Issue 5 pp. 1075-1077 May 2008

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