There are a few things that happen after giving birth that sometimes fall under the radar and aren't talked about as much, probably because they are just so routine that they just happen so fast without you even blinking an eye. In a typical vaginal hospital birth, the baby comes out and the nurse immediately covers the baby in a warm towel or blanket, the umbilical cord gets cut, there may have been some suctioning of the mouth and nose, the nurse will weigh your baby and measure the baby's length and head circumference, and then comes the antibiotic eye drops and the vitamin K injection.
What is the Vitamin K Shot?
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient needed in newborns to prevent what is called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). Newborns are born with low levels of Vitamin K so upon birth, a newborn is injected to assist with blood clotting capabilities to prevent bleeding.
What is Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB)?
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding is a rare but life-threatening condition that can cause uncontrolled bleeding, sometimes into the brain, because of the body's inability to properly form clots.
There are three types:
• Early VKDB - (occurs within 24 hours of birth) Early VKDB is very severe. It is not a result of naturally occurring low levels of vitamin K and is found in infants whose mothers used certain medications during pregnancy that interfere with vitamin K metabolism.
• Classic VKDB - (occurs between day 1 and day 7 after birth) Classic VKDB is the most common form of VKDB and least severe, usually resulting in bruising or bleeding of the umbilical cord. This type is mostly associated with delayed feeding or inadequate supply of breastmilk.
• Late VKDB - (occurs between week 2 and 6 months after birth) Late VKDB is the most rare case of VKDB, occurring in 4.4 – 7.2 per 100,000 babies but also the most severe with the highest mortality rate of all types. The CDC states, "this bleeding occurs up to 6 months of age in previously healthy infants, and between 30–60% of late VKDB presents as an intracranial bleed. This life-threatening complication tends to occur in exclusively breastfed infants who have received no or inadequate vitamin K prophylaxis". In most cases, these babies have cholestatic liver disease, cystic fibrosis, or severe malabsorption syndromes leading to the bleeding being a symptom of an underlying disease and not caused by vitamin K deficiency.
Who is at risk?
• Breastfed babies whose milk has an inadequate supply of vitamin K.
• Infants of mothers who used certain medications during pregnancy including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and anti-turberculosis medications. These medications can interfere with vitamin K absorption and result in vitamin K deficiency.
• Infants born with underlying, undiagnosed health conditions such as cholestasis (liver problems), diarrhea, hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, celiac, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, or genetic variation affecting vitamin K absorption.
• Preterm, low-birth weight infants
• Infants born with a traumatic delivery
What are the side effects of the Vitamin K shot?
At first glance, it seems almost common sense that you should protect your baby from any form of VKDB by giving your newborn the vitamin K shot upon birth but like most other medical interventions there are both risks and benefits.
This is an image from the Vitamin K shot insert:
There is a black box warning listing DEATH as one of the potential side effects!!!! That is a pretty severe reaction to a vitamin shot given to a newborn if you ask me.
The vitamin K shot is made with egg phospholipid and castor oil. The vitamin K shot may also include adjuvants such as peanut oil or other nut-oils. The problem is castor oil actually cross-reacts with peanuts and tree nuts, causing -- you guessed it, food allergies to peanuts or tree nuts. So if your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, it may have been caused by the vitamin K shot and vaccines that contain these ingredients as well.
The injection may also contain preservatives that are toxic and harmful to your newborn and can compromise your newborn's delicate and developing immune system. The vitamin K shot is a vaccine-like substance that contains aluminum, benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol (which is antifreeze). Aluminum is the worst of them all and can cause severe health consequences including damage to the brain by producing oxidative stress. Aluminum is also a heavy metal you want to limit your exposure to, especially if you want to prevent your child from developing Autism and it is in nearly every single vaccine...but that's a whole different story. The point is, the vitamin K shot has some toxic ingredients with potential side effects and isn't thoroughly studied as there are no studies testing synergistic effects of the ingredients.
The vitamin K shot can also cause severe skin conditions, such as eczema. Eczema is a growing problem with newborns and it is an adverse reaction from administering the vitamin K shot at birth.
I have decided that I WON'T be giving my newborn the vitamin K shot and here's why:
1. God Didn't Make a Mistake - I am a Christian so I believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. How does that correlate with my decision? Well, babies are born with low levels of vitamin K until day 8, when they start producing their own. God created newborns that way so there must be a reason for it. In a conversation I had with my dad as I was contemplating this decision, he pointed out that many scientists who invented medical interventions don't believe in God and believe in "fixing things", such as low levels of vitamin K. Hm! If God created newborns to have low levels of vitamin K until day 8, that is not something I believe needs to be "fixed".
2. Risks Outweigh Benefits - First of all, I would really like to avoid anything that has a black box warning label indicating DEATH as a potential side effect. That right there is enough for me to say no to the vitamin K shot. I also don't believe it is a good idea to bombard a newborn's fragile system with toxic ingredients and poisons found in the vitamin K shot which can cause brain damage and other negative side effects that can affect my baby for life. The risks are way too high for me to want to put my baby through that, especially when there are so many other ways to increase my baby's vitamin K levels before giving birth and through breastfeeding. An oral vitamin K supplement can be used as a safe alternative to the injection but still contains some additives that I find uneccessary to give my newborn, especially when I have the ability to load up on vitamin K in my pregnancy and pass it to my baby through the placenta and through breastfeeding after birth.
3. Diet is key - Food really is medicine and the food we consume fuels us with all the essential vitamins and minerals we need. It is important to remember that VKDB, although rare, can happen -- so you need to be proactive in ensuring your baby is getting adequate levels of vitamin K if you refuse the vitamin K shot. I plan on loading up on vitamin K rich foods such as dark leafy greens and avocado, drinking vitamin K rich teas such as nettle leaf tea, and adding things like Hawaiian Spirulina and alfalfa powder to my smoothies. Loading up on vitamin K through diet will ensure your baby has plenty of vitamin K levels before birth to prevent VKDB and will continue to ensure your baby has plenty of vitamin K as you breastfeed. In the unfortunate scenario where you are unable to breastfeed it is good to note that formula fed babies aren't at risk for VKDB, as formula is fortified with vitamin K. Also important to note that a baby whose mom fortifies her diet with vitamin K rich foods prior to birth and throughout breastfeeding has much higher levels of vitamin K than a newborn with the Vitamin K shot because the nutrients can be more optimally absorbed compared to synthetic vitamin K found in the injection, oral, or in formula.
Is the Vitamin K shot necessary?
The bottom line is giving a newborn the vitamin K shot is just not necessary when a mom is fortifying her diet with vitamin K rich foods throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is yet another medical intervention that has become universally routine with little thought to its practice. Don't forget to always to do your research and always remember that medical intervention must always be a choice!!
* This blog contains my personal opinions and is not intended to be used for medical advice. *