Vitamin K: What Mothers-to-Be MUST Know
Since 1944, best practices in most western countries, including America, have included giving newborns an injection of Vitamin K. Regularly done to all newborns, the only infants to escape are those whose parents refused to give consent.
Everything experienced by a newborn is new. The infant has never known cold or want, seen artificial lighting or felt hands, medical equipment, paper or fabric. Even gravitation is different.
A hypodermic stick is not a great way to connect to the external world, and many are starting to wonder if an injection is really in an infant’s best interest.
According to Dr. Cees Vermeer, Ph.D., with University of Maastricht, Vitamin K shots are unnecessary for a newborn.
Although Vitamin K is necessary, painful injections are unnecessary as there are other ways to manage an infant’s Vitamin K levels.
Vitamin K is required for healthy hemoglobin clotting in both children and adults. Most babies have inadequate levels of Vitamin K.
Occasionally, this deficiency may lead to a bleeding dysfunction called Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). HDN can lead to internal bleeding in the cerebellum, as well as other organs, which might lead to severe injury or death.
Although HDN is rare, injections of Vitamin K has consistently been given as a preventive measure — regardless of the presence of other risk factors.
The presence of any of the following can put an infant at heightened danger for HDN:
- Premature delivery
- Inadequate birth weight
- Forceps delivery
- Mother use of antibiotic and some other medicines during gestation
- Undiagnosed liver disease
- Either extremely quick or greatly prolonged, labor
- Birth by C-section
The current standards of care concerning the use of Vitamin K was placed into protocols without sufficient analysis. The scattered methods were based more on the scheduling needs of physicians and lacked any determination of consequences for the infant.
State-of-the-art study has shown safer practices that protect infants from HDN just as adequately.
There are threefold main risk areas that physicians typically fail to mention:
- Infliction of discomfort, shortly after birth, may cause psycho-emotional harm to the infant.
- The usual quantity of Vitamin K included is 20,000 times more than needed.
- The dose creates an extra opening for contamination.
It was proposed years ago that Vitamin K shots were linked to cancer and leukemia. That hypothesis has been disproven. Another claim, still occasionally heard, is that clamping the umbilical cord may point to lower Vitamin K levels.
Inflicting pain just after birth has effects on infants. For over a century, various doctors maintained that new infants didn’t sense discomfort — or remember it — the way grown-ups do.
Recent studies show that not only do infants feel discomfort but the quicker they encounter it, the more damaging are the psychological effects.
Dr. David Chamberlain, a psychologist, wrote “Babies Don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine” in which he said:
“The quicker an infant is exposed to pain, the higher potential there is for harm. Early pains included being born early and being subjected to any operation.”
In 1999, Science Daily printed a report about a research time with the Washington School of Medicine. The study showed that newborns exposed to painful treatments show various long-term consequences as they get older.
Oral Vitamin K is a Safe Alternative
The alternative to newborn shots is simplistic: give the vitamin by mouth. It is trustworthy and efficient and doesn’t have the associated side effects.
Oral Vitamin K is not absorbed as efficiently compared to injectable Vitamin K. The problem is corrected by adjusting the dose. Since Vitamin K is nontoxic, toxicity is not a danger.
Over time, guidelines have been developed that are summed up by a group known as the Cochrane Collaboration. The Cochrane Collaboration determines that the following dose schedule of Vitamin K produces very comparable degrees of protection from HDN:
- 1-milligram liquid Vitamin K weekly, or
- .25 milligram liquid Vitamin K daily
Know This Before the Baby is Born
The decision about whether or not to agree to Vitamin K shots is up to the parents. There are many infant pains that a parent cannot prevent, no matter how much they try.
Choosing to keep from exposing a newborn to Vitamin K as a should means the parent will have to make it clear to the OB doctor as well as all of the nursing staff.
Many parents find it worthwhile to take extra steps to protect their newborns and to make sure that your expressed wishes are followed during birth, it is often a good idea to have someone in the delivery room reminding the labor and delivery team that the child should NOT get the Vitamin K shot.