What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K

Part of your pregnancy is going to be reading a lot of information about pregnancy and all the testing and what supplements we need for growing a healthy baby. But what about your baby?

Do you know about Vitamin K and why your healthcare provider is suggesting your baby be given a shot of the synthetic form of this vitamin at birth? Many parents quickly exchange wide eyed glances and then default to “I guess it’s ok” but they don’t really know what they are saying yes to. As doulas, we want you to have this information before your baby comes!

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in blood clotting, bone health, and regulating blood calcium levels. For adults, eating foods rich in the vitamin is enough. Those foods include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collards
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Turnips
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Kiwi

Why is it suggested?

Babies have extremely low Vitamin K reserves at birth. This is because it does not transfer well through the placenta, and babies have sterile guts, so the bacteria needed to create it are not present. Babies are at critically low reserves day 2-3 and then our bodies begin creating Vitamin K around day 7. However, babies are not fully sufficient with Vitamin K reserves until we begin eating solid foods around 6 months of age. Being deficient can cause excessive bleeding in the skull and even hemorrhage due to trauma at birth or after. Two decades of studies were done and research shows that having the Vitamin K shot can benefit children up to the 3rd year of life. That’s a long time!

Are There Risks?

Giving your baby an injection of Vitamin K has very little risk, according to studies done. The risks include pain from the shot itself, bruising or slight swelling at the injection site. Only a single case of allergic reaction in an infant has ever been reported, so this is extremely rare. Vitamin K is stored in the liver, so some studies suggest this causes a rise in jaundice levels as the body clears the excess given at birth.

How Do I Score It?

There are various forms readily available in the US to patients over the counter. For pregnant moms, it can be found in drops and tablets and easily acquired. For infants, your delivering provider will offer you the injection version. But there is actually an oral version available. Some parents choose this  to reduce the amount of injections their baby gets at birth. You can talk to your provider about where to purchase it, as there are many options, and reliability and availability can very.

Remember, always do your research and talk to your healthcare providers about medical decisions. For more information on current guidelines, check out this article by clicking here.

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