High-Risk Newborns - Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn)
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is a bleeding problem that occurs in a newborn during the first few days of life. VKDB was previously called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.
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.
Vitamin K deficiency may result in bleeding in a very small percentage of babies. Babies at risk for developing 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 have seizure disorders and take anti-convulsant medications
Without the clotting factor, bleeding occurs, and severe bleeding or hemorrhage can result.
The following are the most common symptoms of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- blood in the baby's bowel movements
- blood in urine
- oozing around the umbilical cord
The symptoms of VKDB may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a diagnosis is based on the signs of bleeding and by laboratory tests for blood clotting times.
Specific treatment for VKDB will be determined by your baby's physician based on:
- your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving every newborn baby an injection of vitamin K after delivery to prevent this potentially life-threatening disease.
If bleeding occurs, vitamin K is also given. Blood transfusions may also be needed if bleeding is severe.