Evidence for the Vitamin K Shot in Newborns


Vitamin K deficiency bleeding, thought to be a problem of the past—has been recently thrust back into the spotlight. During an 8-month period in 2013, five infants were admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, with life-threatening bleeding. The infants were diagnosed with late Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)—four of the infants had bleeding in the brain, and one had bleeding in the intestines. Although the five infants survived, two required emergency brain surgery to save their lives, one has severe brain damage (a stroke with right-sided paralysis and severe cognitive delays), and two have mild to moderate brain injuries (Personal communication, Dr. Robert Sidonio, 2014).

What did these infants have in common? The infants ranged in age from seven weeks to five months old; three were male and two were female. Three of the infants were born in hospitals, and two were born at home. All of the infants were exclusively breastfed. Most importantly, what these infants had in common was that all of their parents had declined Vitamin K shots at birth.

Concerned by this outbreak, the hospital asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to look into the situation. Researchers from the CDC examined Tennessee hospital records and found that between the years 2007 and 2012, there had been zero cases of Vitamin K deficiency bleeding out of more than 490,000 births. They randomly sampled records from babies born at three Nashville hospitals and found that 96.6% of infants received Vitamin K injections. In contrast, only 72% of infants born in local freestanding birth centers received Vitamin K (Warren, Miller et al. 2013).