Grocery stores and restaurants don’t boast about the vitamins their foods contain for no reason. Vitamins are key nutrients that help facilitate many of the body’s essential functions. Vitamin D, which is obtained from sun exposure and from consuming certain foods, helps regulate your immune system and also helps reduce inflammation.
Vitamin C, famously found in oranges and other fruits and veggies, provides protection against cardiovascular disease and also spurs the growth, development, and repair of tissue. The list goes on and on, as any pharmacy supplement aisle will tell you.
One vitamin you won’t hear much about, however, is vitamin K. Despite this, vitamin K plays a big role in your newborn’s health. A shot of the vitamin should be one of the first things on your list with your pediatrician.
At Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics, we offer exceptional prenatal and newborn care to help you care for your new bundle of joy. In this blog, Nicolette Marak, MD, discusses the importance of vitamin K and why your newborn needs a shot of the vitamin during their first days.
Vitamin K basics
Vitamin K refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins that help with blood clotting, blood metabolism, and in the regulation of blood calcium levels. The body uses vitamin K, in part, to create the substance that clots blood. The vitamin is found in a variety of common foods, including:
- Fatty meats, such as liver
Because it’s found in so many foods, vitamin K deficiency is uncommon in adults. However, people on blood thinners, with celiacs disease, or who drink heavily may need more vitamin K.
Vitamin K in newborns
You may be surprised to learn that all babies are born with low levels of vitamin K. And since a newborn’s diet is breast milk or formula, those levels won’t rise during the first few months after they’re born.
Mothers who eat foods with high levels of vitamin K may be able to slightly elevate the level of vitamin K in their breast milk, but it won’t be high enough. Because of this, newborns need a shot of vitamin K to bolster the amount they have in their system.
Why vitamin K is important
Babies are at risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), which can cause internal bleeding in the brain or intestines. Unfortunately, undetected bleeding in these areas can lead to brain damage or even death.
Infants up to six months are at a higher risk of suffering VKDB. When the body has enough vitamin K, VKDB is very unlikely, as the blood is able to properly clot.
The vitamin K shot
For most infants, the vitamin K shot is a one-time injection. And it’s well worth it, because babies who don’t get a vitamin K shot are 81 times more likely to develop VKDB. The disease is about 20% fatal in babies who suffer from it.
The vitamin K shot is extremely safe and has no history of side effects. In fact, the shot is largely responsible for making VKDB extremely rare in the United States. Dr. Marak knows how important vitamin K is and will make sure your baby starts life with a low risk of VKDB.
Don’t skip out on the vitamin K shot for your infant. To learn more about prenatal and infant care, book an appointment over the phone with Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics today.