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Vitamin K at Birth

Let’s Talk Vitamin K and Newborns

Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood clotting in adults and children. But newborns are different.  They are not born with sufficient amounts of the vitamin.  This alone is enough to make you question the necessity of an injection.  If all babies are born with little Vitamin K, it may be because it is what is meant to be.  But, understandably, some argue that Vitamin K is needed so it must be administered.

It is quite rare, but in some newborns, a deficiency in Vitamin K can lead to a serious bleeding disorder, typically in the first week of life, called Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN). HDN is an internal bleeding that occurs in the brain and other organs, leading to serious injury or potentially even death.

Due to this disease, which may affect 0.25% of infants, it has become standard treatment to give a Vitamin K injection as a preventative measure to all infants at birth, even when risk factors are not present.

Risk Factors for HDN Include:

  • Preterm delivery
  • Low birth weight
  • A forceps or vacuum extraction delivery
  • Mother’s use of antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, and some other medications during pregnancy
  • Undetected liver disease
  • Extremely fast, or extremely prolonged labor, particularly during the pushing phase
  • Delivery by C-section
  • Certain Health Conditions – If baby has undiagnosed cholestasis (liver problems), diarrhea, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis (CF), celiac disease, or alpha – 1-antitrypsin deficiency, or a genetic variation affecting Vitamin K absorption, they may be at increased risk for VKDB.

Little to no unmetabolized vitamin K shows up in urine. This is disturbing given the fact that vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin and therefore has the potential to accumulate in body tissues. The liver of a newborn does not begin to function until 3 or 4 days after birth. As a result, the baby has very limited to no ability to detoxify the large dose of synthetic vitamin K and all other the dangerous ingredients in the injection.

Increased rates of circumcision immediately after birth, before infants can develop their vitamin K levels naturally, has contributed to making vitamin K injections routine, to lower the risk for increased bleeding from these early circumcisions.  (Yes, an infant can bleed to death from circumcision.)

A newborn’s natural levels rise on their own to the normal range between days 5-7 and peak around day 8 of life.  Research shows that this is related to the bacteria in the newborn’s gut.

What is in the Vitamin K Injection?

A synthetic vitamin K with the generic name ‘phytonadione.’ (Synthetic vitamins should be avoided as they can cause imbalances in the body and have unintended consequences.)

Ingredients (May vary slightly by manufacturer):

2 mg Phytondione (the synthetic version of phylloquinone), 70 mgs polyoxyethylated fatty acid, 37.5 mgs hydrous dextrose, 9 mg benzyl alcohol, and possibly hydrochloric acid.

Ingredients In The Preservative-Free Version (May vary slightly by manufacturer): 

1 mg Phytonadione (the synthetic version of phylloquinone), 10 mg Polysorbate 80, 10.4 mg of Propylene glycol, 0.17 mg of Sodium acetate anhydrous, 0.00002 mL of Glacial acetic acid

Along with the other preservatives and chemicals within the injection, Benzyl alcohol has been reported to be associated with a fatal ‘Gasping Syndrome’ in premature infants.

Vitamin K Injection Side Effects

The phytonadione drug insert warns that it can cause severe, sometimes fatal, allergic reactions when injected into a muscle or vein, and is ideally taken by mouth or injected under the skin. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, trouble breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

The manufacturer’s insert included with the shot includes the following warning:

Severe reactions, including fatalities, have occurred during and immediately after intravenous injection of phytonadione [synthetic Vitamin K] even when precautions have been taken to dilute the vitamin and avoid rapid infusion ….

The manufacturer’s insert is no exaggeration of the risks. On October 17, 2013, a case of anaphylactic shock in a newborn from the synthetic vitamin K shot was reported making the possibility of death from this shot a very real side effect.

Other Problems:

  • Bleeding or bruising at injection site
  • Pain: Many have made claims that newborns don’t feel pain, or remember it, the way adults do. In fact, not only do infants feel pain, but the earlier they experience it, the more damaging and longer lasting the psychological effects may be.

(A 2004 study found that very early pain or stress experiences have long-lasting adverse consequences for newborns, including changes in the central nervous system and changes in responsiveness of the neuroendocrine and immune systems at maturity.)

Is the Vitamin K Injection required?

Only one state has a law mandating vitamin K injections—New York State, which is also known for restricting and preventing exemptions to vaccinations and other mandated medical treatments for children. However, you can find specific instructions about how to opt out of injection (and obtain oral vitamin K for your newborn), for New Yorkers and residents of other states, at Vaccine Liberation Organization, which has a page specific to New Yorkerswho wish to avoid the Hepatitis B shot, vitamin K injections, or the application of silver nitrate into your newborn’s eyes.




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