Kids Love Dr. Barton

The Importance of Vitamin K for Newborns

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 09/01/2009

From time to time in my medical practice, I encounter parents who express concern over (and eventually choose not have their children participate in) some of the “best practices” of modern medical care. Sometimes it is apparent that they have decided to make that decision based largely on information (or misinformation) that they have read on the Internet. That concerns me. Don’t get me wrong; I think the Internet is a great tool. Obviously, I have a blog…and that’s where you read it. But I find it troublesome that some parents are willing to take the anti-medical advice offered by random Internet articles, whose source and accuracy is “iffy” at best, over the advice and practical experience of their own family pediatrician.

Take for example the vitamin K shot that is given to newborns at birth. I have worked with parents who decide that they don’t want their infant to receive this shot. What I can’t understand is why. Let’s review the facts about vitamin K:

Vitamin K is required by the body in order to produce four different clotting factors. If these factors are low, there is an increased risk of bleeding longer and more severely than normal and into places you shouldn’t bleed, including your brain. In newborns, these clotting factors are deficient for a number of reasons, including a low amount stored during pregnancy, poor GI production of vitamin K, and a sole diet of breastmilk, which is relatively deficient in vitamin K. 

Once in a while, we’ll see symptoms of a vitamin K deficiency in the first 24 hours. This is rare. More commonly, symptoms occur during the first two weeks from bleeding at a puncture site, a circumcision, or from the umbilicus as it starts to come off. These are mild symptoms that have very little effect on the newborn. More ominous is bleeding that occurs after the second week of life. This is when intracranial bleeding is most common. Once an intracranial bleed occurs, the chances of death or permanent brain damage are about 50%! This would be a disaster for the family of a newborn…especially when that potential disaster is easily prevented with a single shot of vitamin K at birth. 

The single dose of vitamin K at birth has virtually eliminated this problem in the United States.  The incidence of vitamin K deficiency disease in newborns in the U.S.  is quoted as 0.25-1.7/100 newborns. In nations where the vitamin K shot at birth has not been routinely implemented, the disorder is seen in up to 7.5% of newborns!

Sometimes, the information you get on the Internet can be misleading. Please, when you make medical decisions that affect your children and/or the children around your children, get all the facts from a reliable source, and carefully weigh whether your concern about doing too much to your child really outweighs the risk of not doing the medically prudent thing.

Dr. Douglas Barton's patients come from Moscow Mills, Foristell, Lake St. Louis, Warrenton, Troy and even farther north.




Copyright © 2011 Douglas Barton, M.D. • Website designed by