Birthing Without Fear

Is that Newborn Vitamin K Shot really necessary?

It has always seemed cruel to me to stick a needle into any newborn after just having undergone birth – an event that in itself is certainly no walk in the park for those little beings.

In terms of health research (references below), vitamin K is best known for its role in healthy blood clotting. It is one of the key nutrients for keeping our blood clotting ability at the exact right level.

At the time of our son´s birth, I got told that the standard vitamin K injection for newborns is done by default – no questions asked. There is controversial information to be found on this subject and the purpose of this article is to get pregnant women and couples to inform themselves broadly about the possible consequences of (specifically) such injections just after birth. Our son did receive vitamin K – not injected though. My husband and I avoided to have a needle stuck into our baby but instead we requested to have the vitamin K administered orally. It was the first time for the nurse to administer the vitamin orally and she was surprised by the fact that sticking a needle into newborns is not a necessity.

Administering vitamin K shots to newborns has been a standard medical procedure in most western countries since 1944. However, according to vitamin K expert Dr. Cees Vermeer PhD, vitamin K shots are completely unnecessary for newborns (cited in Dr. Mercola´s article).

Vitamin K shots are given to infants, who are born with insufficient levels of vitamin K, to prevent Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (HDN), in spite of its very low occurrence rate.

Giving newborns a syringe full of vitamin K may cause emotional psychological trauma, give infants 20,000 times more vitamin K dose than what is needed, and create an environment for infections to occur (Giving birth naturally).

There are safer ways to raise vitamin K levels in newborns; giving vitamin K orally is one way. While breastfeeding enables mothers to transfer low doses of vitamin K to their child, this will depend on the mother’s vitamin K levels.

Dr. David B. Chamberlain, psychologist and co-founder of the Association of Pre-and Perinatal Psychology and Health, wrote in his article “Babies Don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine”.

The earlier an infant is subjected to pain, the greater the potential for harm. Early pains include being born prematurely into a man-made ‘womb,’ being born full-term in a man-made delivery room, being subject to any surgery (major or minor), and being circumcised. We must alert the medical community to the psychological hazards of early pain and call for the removal of all man-made pain surrounding birth.

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.

Similarly, a 2008 study of analgesia in newborns and children concluded:

Healthy newborns routinely experience acute pain during blood sampling for metabolic screening, injection of vitamin K or hepatitis vaccine, or circumcision. Acute pain caused by skin-breaking procedures can lead to physiologic instability and behavioral distress, and it has downstream effects on subsequent pain processing, development and stress responsivity. Because of these detrimental effects, reduction and prevention of pain are worthy clinical goals that are also expected by most parents.

In addition to the above, the possible trauma from the injection can also jeopardize the establishment of breastfeeding, which is detrimental to both mother and baby.

In support of vitamin K administration to newborns, the  American Academy of Pediatrics argue that vitamin K deficiency may cause unexpected bleeding (0.25%–1.7% incidence) during the first week of life in previously healthy-appearing neonates (early vitamin K deficiency bleeding [VKDB] of the newborn). The efficacy of neonatal vitamin K prophylaxis (oral or parenteral) in the prevention of early VKDB is firmly established. It has been the standard of care since the AAP recommended it in 1961.

Before you choose to give your baby vitamin K straight after birth, new moms are encouraged to gather current information on the subject to make informed decisions.

Make sure that your blood is high in natural vitamin K preceding the birth of your child for a natural transfer to your baby. Excellent sources of natural vitamin K include parsley, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, thyme, romaine lettuce, sage, oregano, cabbage, celery, sea vegetables, cucumber, leeks, cauliflower, tomatoes, and blueberries.

For those of you interested in reading more in detail about food sources that provide Vitamin K, read here.

Article written by Jana Allmrodt