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Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in the Newborn

What is vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn?

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a problem that occurs in some newborns. It happens during the first few days of life. This condition used to be called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

What causes vitamin K deficiency bleeding in 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.

Who is at risk for vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn?

The following 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. Breastmilk has less vitamin K than formula made with cow’s milk.
  • Being born to a mother who took certain medicines during pregnancy. These include medicines for seizures (anticonvulsants) and for blood clotting problems (anticoagulants).

What are the symptoms of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn?

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

  • Blood in your baby's bowel movements
  • Blood in your baby's urine
  • Oozing around your baby’s umbilical cord
  • A baby who bruises more easily than normal. This may happen around your baby's head and face.
  • Yellowing of the white parts of your baby’s eyes after he or she is 3 weeks old

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.

How is vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will look at his or her 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.

How is vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn treated?

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

Your baby may need a blood transfusion if he or she has severe bleeding.

What are the complications of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn?

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding can lead to life-threatening problems. These include dangerous bleeding that can lead to brain damage or death.

Can vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn be prevented?

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 his or her leg muscle. This shot will be given soon after birth. This will prevent dangerous bleeding.

Key points about vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the newborn

  • Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a problem that occurs in some newborns. It 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. 

Next steps

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.
Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in the Newborn - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Goode, Paula, RN, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 2015-06-15T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-04-01T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-04-01T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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