Controversy surrounds the administration of Vitamin K injections for newborns, and news out of Tennessee that 7 children in the last 8 months have been admitted to Vanderbilt Hospital with brain bleeds caused by a Vitamin K deficiency has health care providers concerned.
In the United States, newborns are injected with Vitamin K within 6 hours of birth, per strict protocols and recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some parents that have consulted with pediatricians at the Pediatric Center of Round Rock have refused Vitamin K injections for their newborn due to concerns that the injection causes leukemia and cancer within the baby’s body, which are claims are promoted by the anti-vaccine movement.
Despite these claims that have no basis in science, pediatricians recommend administering vitamin K to newborns to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, a condition first described in 1894 and characterized by spontaneous internal bleeding in otherwise healthy infants.
Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn was linked to Vitamin K deficiency in 1939, which caused pediatricians to administer the vitamin via injection as a preventative measure. As a result, the incidence of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn was very low in the United States. In recent years, an increase of hemorrhagic disease of newborns has been documented as more parents opt out of Vitamin K injection administration to their newborns.
Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn was linked to Vitamin K deficiency in 1939, which is when pediatricians began to administer the vitamin via injection as a preventative measure. As a result, the incidence of the disease has been very low in the United States. In recent years we’ve seen a startling increase of infant brain bleeds as more parents opt out of the Vitamin K injection when their baby is born.
Internal bleeding, caused by Vitamin K deficiency, can begin within 2 to 7 days of life. Symptoms include bleeding through the gastrointestinal tract, umbilical bleeding, or post-circumcision bleeding. Although the condition may present itself later on in the baby’s life, between 8 days and 6 months of age, the risk of developing Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is about 81 times greater in newborns who do not receive Vitamin K after birth.
Potentially fatal diseases and other chronic illnesses are preventable through the safe and effective administration of vaccinations and Vitamin K injections.
Many parents do not want their newborn child to experience pain during injection administration and opt for an oral Vitamin K administration instead. Oral administration of Vitamin K for newborns may not be readily available at all facilities in the United States due to unreliable absorption in preterm newborns and the requirement of several doses given at different intervals to achieve protection.
Vitamin K administration is safe and prevents the often fatal brain bleeds which characterize the hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. Although parents and some health professionals speculate Vitamin K injection side effects include the development of leukemia and other forms of cancer in newborns, the most current Vitamin K injection research and studies do not show evidence to support the claims.
For more information about this critical life-saving vitamin injection, listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast entitled “Talk with Expectant Parents about Late Vitamin K Deficient Bleeding Among Infants”.