Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin, it plays a key role in blood clotting. Unfortunately, Vitamin K is not efficiently passed across the placenta from the mother to the baby.
Most babies are naturally born with low stores of Vitamin K. A small number of babies are at risk of bleeding and this can happen as early as the first 24 hours of life. It is known as Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn, or VKBD (vitamin k deficiency bleeding).
What are the symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency in a baby?
Vitamin K deficiency might be considered if there is bleeding occurring from the stump of the umbilical cord, the nose or mouth, or the anus – this would be caused by bleeding from the gut. Blood in the urine may also be noticed. Occasionally, bleeding can occur within the skull, which is obviously very serious.
What is the cause of Vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
Most of our dietary source of Vitamin K is green leafy vegetables and healthy bacteria in our gut produce it as a byproduct. Unfortunately, only small amounts cross the placenta, breastmilk also contains very little vitamin K.
Are there any risk factors?
Some medication including anti-seizure (anti-epileptic) medication, cephalosporin antibiotics, and blood thinning agents may increase the risk. Late-onset cases may occur if the baby has celiac disease, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, or suffers chronic diarrhoea generally.
How can I prevent my baby getting Vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
All babies should receive a small injection of Vitamin K soon after birth. In Australia, this injection is known as Konakion. This is safe, routine and highly effective at presenting early-onset cases. It is often given with the Hepatitis B vaccine. The administration of injections will always be discussed with you and your consent will be obtained prior to your baby receiving Vitamin K or any other injections.