Anti-Vaxx rhetoric is so dangerous that it can literally make your baby’s brain bleed.
One of the most dangerous pieces of trash advice given by anti-vaxxers is to avoid the Vitamin K shot for newborns. The vitamin K shot is not a vaccine but they’ve lumped this in with their misinformation campaigns, so I’m going to throw a little science on that bologna and take out the trash because babies need us to use our brains to save theirs.
What is vitamin K and what does it do?
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin that helps your blood clot.
Why don’t newborns have enough vitamin K?
Babies in utero get their nutrients from their mothers, but vitamin K does not cross the placenta as well as some other nutrients do. In addition, once detached from mom’s placenta, breast fed babies do not receive enough vitamin K because it also does not cross into breastmilk in high enough concentrations. ALL babies are born and enter the first few days and weeks of life deficient in vitamin K.
What is my vitamin K deficient baby at risk for?
A small number of infants have “spontaneous internal bleeding”. If this occurs and your baby is deficient in vitamin K, their body will not be able to stop the bleeding. There is no way to know which babies will have spontaneous bleeds. These bleeds occur in otherwise healthy infants with no warning. Most often, the bleeding occurs in the brain, but it can occur in the intestines or in any other organ system. If your baby’s body can’t clot due to low vitamin K, the results are devastating.
How common is this?
It’s rare. About 69 vitamin K deficient babies out of 100,000 will have uncontrolled bleeding. If we use US population to estimate, that’s around 300 babies per year.
If vitamin K deficiency bleeding is so rare, why does the medical community care?
Although the condition is rare, it is very serious. Around 20% of Infants who experience bleeding into their brains (which is where the bleeding most often occurs) die. If they survive they require brain surgery, IV vitamin K and a plethora of other interventions to save their life. Of those that survive, around 50% will suffer serious neurological injury, including paralyzation, vision loss, inability to speak, gait problems and intellectual disability. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the brain is essentially an infant with a hemorrhagic stroke. The medical community cares because, although rare, the results are devastating.
How can I make sure my baby gets enough vitamin K?
Unfortunately, a mother cannot give her child adequate vitamin K to prevent a deficiency. Vitamin K does not cross the placenta in high enough concentration to make a difference. Similarly, vitamin K does not cross into breastmilk in high enough concentrations to combat the deficient state of all newborns. You can go broke OD-ing on organic kale if you want to but it won’t help your adorable little hemophiliac. What you can do, is allow your medical team to give your new baby an intramuscular injection of vitamin K. This has been routinely given to all newborns (unless specifically refused by the parents) since 1961.
Is the vitamin K injection dangerous?
No. the vitamin K shot is extremely safe. There is only one documented case of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) in a baby from Turkey. The other warnings associated with vitamin K (yes the ones on the insert) pertain to IV administration of the vitamin in much higher doses than the IM shot babies are given. The vitamin K shot does not contain mercury. There is a maximum of 0.05 μg (a μg is 1/1000th of a milligram) of aluminum in the vitamin K shot. Your newborn will ingest 7milligrams of aluminum from breastmilk in his first few months of life. The injected form is metabolized more efficiently than the ingested form.
The vitamin K shot is extremely safe and reduces your baby’s risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding by 81x! It has been administered to babies at birth since 1961 with no evidence of harm beyond local redness and the usual discomfort associated with an injection. The numerous other claims made by misinformed ‘do it yourself’ couch researchers have been debunked, including the one where it supposedly caused cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2394315/
misinformation about vitamin K has resulted in the injuries of multiple infants in the US. You can read about a few here:
In addition to anti-vaxx misinformation, the increase in home births
and birthing center births have resulted in higher rates of babies not
receiving newborn vitamin K injections.
If someone you love is expecting a baby encourage them to speak with their doctor about the benefits of vitamin K.