Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in the Newborn

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is a problem that occurs
in some newborn babies. It most often happens during the first few days and weeks
of
life. But it can occur up to 6 months of age. This condition used to be called
hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. 

Babies are normally born with low levels of vitamin K. Vitamin K is
needed for blood to clot. Not having enough vitamin K is the main cause of vitamin
deficiency bleeding. If your baby’s blood doesn’t clot, he or she may have severe
bleeding or a hemorrhage. This can be life-threatening. The cause of vitamin K
deficiency depends on the 3 types of VKDB: early, classical, late:

  • Early VKDB can occur right after birth or up to 24 hours of
    age. It’s caused by certain medicines the mother took during pregnancy
  • Classical VKDB occurs from 1 to 7 days after birth. It’s
    caused by low levels of vitamin K found in newborns.
  • Late VKDB most often occurs up to 3 months after birth. But
    it can occur up to 6 months after birth. It can occur in a baby who did not get a
    vitamin K shot at birth and who was breastfed only.

These things may make it more
likely for a baby to have this condition:

  • Not getting a vitamin K shot at
    birth.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns get a vitamin K
    shot. This can prevent severe bleeding. 
  • Being breastfed only and not getting a
    vitamin K shot at birth.
    Breastmilk has less vitamin K than formula
    made with cow’s milk. The vitamin K shot will provide what a breastfed baby needs.
    A
    mother who takes a vitamin K supplement while breastfeeding will not raise her baby’s
    vitamin K level.
  • Being born to a mother who took
    certain medicines during pregnancy.
    These include medicines for
    seizures (anticonvulsants) and medicines for blood-clotting problems
    (anticoagulants).

Symptoms can occur a bit
differently in each child. They can include:

  • Blood in your baby’s bowel movements.
    This makes the stool black and sticky (tarry).
  • Blood in your baby’s urine
  • Oozing of blood from around your
    baby’s umbilical cord or circumcision site
  • Bruising more easily than normal. This
    may happen around your baby’s head and face.
  • Unusual, excessive sleepiness or
    fussiness. In severe cases, vitamin K deficiency may cause bleeding in and around
    the
    brain. Others signs of bleeding in the brain can include seizures or lots of
    vomiting, not just spitting up.

The symptoms of this condition may be similar to symptoms of other
health issues. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Your child’s healthcare provider
will look at their health history. The healthcare provider will also check your baby
for
signs of bleeding. Your baby may need lab tests to measure his or her blood clotting
times. The results of these tests can help your child’s healthcare provider make the
diagnosis.

Treatment will depend on your
child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the
condition is.

Your baby will probably get a
vitamin K shot.

Your baby may need a blood
transfusion if they have severe bleeding. If your baby is severely ill, they may need
to
be treated in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding can lead to life-threatening problems.
These include dangerous bleeding that can lead to brain damage or death. In the U.S.,
deaths and long-term complications from vitamin K deficiency have been greatly lowered
because of vitamin K shots given at birth. But bleeding into the brain, central nervous
system, stomach, intestines, or other parts of the body can cause serious problems,
or
even death.

This condition can be prevented. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends that all newborns get a vitamin K shot. Your child will get a shot into
their
upper leg (thigh) muscle. This shot will be given soon after birth. This will prevent
dangerous bleeding.

  • Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a
    problem that occurs in some newborns. It often happens during the first few days of
    life.
  • Babies are normally born with low
    levels of vitamin K. Not having enough vitamin K is the main cause of this
    condition.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will
    diagnose this condition. This will be based on your child’s signs of bleeding and
    lab
    tests for blood clotting times.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics
    recommends that all newborns get a vitamin K shot. This can prevent this
    condition. 

Tips to help you get the most from
a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what
    you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down
    questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a
    new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
    instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment
    is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects
    are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be
    treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is
    recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does
    not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up
    appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s
    provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have
    questions or need advice.