Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn)
What is vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is a bleeding problem that occurs in some newborns during the first few days of life. VKDB was previously called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.
What causes vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
Babies are normally born with low levels of vitamin K, an essential factor in blood clotting. A deficiency in vitamin K is the main cause of VKDB.
Who is affected by vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
Vitamin K deficiency may result in bleeding in a very small percentage of babies. Babies at risk for developing vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) include the following:
Babies who do not receive preventive vitamin K in an injection at birth
Exclusively breastfed babies (breast milk contains less vitamin K than cow's milk formula)
Babies whose mothers take anticonvulsants (for seizures) and anticoagulants (for clotting disorders)
Why is vitamin K deficiency bleeding a concern?
Without the clotting factor, bleeding occurs, and severe bleeding or hemorrhage can result.
What are the symptoms of vitamin K deficiency bleeding?
The following are the most common symptoms of VKDB:
Blood in the baby's bowel movements
Blood in the baby's urine
Oozing around the umbilical cord
The symptoms of VKDB may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's doctor for a diagnosis.
How is vitamin K deficiency bleeding diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, a diagnosis is based on signs of bleeding and lab tests for blood clotting times.
Treatment for vitamin K deficiency bleeding
Specific treatment for VKDB will be determined by your baby's doctor.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving every newborn baby an injection of vitamin K after delivery to prevent this potentially life-threatening disease.
Blood transfusions may also be needed if bleeding is severe.
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
- Trevino, Healther, M., BSN, RNC