Vitamin K deficiency bleeding - Why newborn babies need Vitamin K

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding - Why newborn babies need Vitamin K

We are all familiar with everyday vitamins, such as vitamins A, B, C, D and E, but how much do you know about vitamin K? Most adults who are eating a healthy diet will never need extra vitamin K because their bodies produce enough of it naturally. For babies, it’s a different story. They are born without it and if their maternity or neonatal carers fail to give them vitamin K after birth they risk serious brain injury from VKDB (vitamin K deficiency bleeding).

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a natural substance which enables our blood to clot properly. Vitamin K also helps strengthen our bones. Our body produces some of the vitamin K that we need from bacteria in our intestines. The rest of the vitamin K that we need for healthy blood clotting comes from our diet.

Negligent failure to give vitamin K to a newborn baby

At birth, newborn babies don’t have the bacteria that is needed to create Vitamin K in their own bodies. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that as standard practice all newborn babies are given vitamin K immediately after birth, either orally or by injection, to help their blood clot properly and protect them from serious injury from vitamin K deficiency bleeding. In most cases, failure to give vitamin K to a newborn baby is negligent. Where VKDB leads to serious brain injury the child may be entitled to substantial compensation.

What is Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)?

VKDB or vitamin K deficiency bleeding used to be called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn. It is a dangerous but rare blood clotting disorder which affects 1 in 10,000 newborn babies, causing them to bleed internally, including within their head into their brain. VKDB can be mild, but for some it is fatal, and one third of babies with VKDB suffer permanent brain damage caused by the bleeding into their brain.

What are the risks of VKDB?

VKDB is totally preventable simply by giving newborn babies vitamin K immediately after birth. Without vitamin K, however, all newborn babies are at risk of serious injury or death from this dangerous condition. This is because their intestines do not yet contain the necessary bacteria to create their own vitamin K.

The risk of a baby developing VKDB further increases where:

  • the baby was premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • delivery was by forceps, Ventouse suction or caesarean section
  • the baby had breathing difficulties at birth
  • the baby is solely breastfed – vitamin K is often added to formula milk
  • mother was on medication during pregnancy
  • the baby is circumcised

Regardless of these additional risk factors, all newborn babies are at risk of VKDB if they are not given vitamin K immediately after birth. In fact, a third of babies with VKDB do not have any of the extra risk factors.

Is VKDB preventable?

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is totally preventable by giving the baby vitamin K immediately after birth.

Compensation for brain injury from VKDB

Boyes Turner’s neonatal brain injury team can recover substantial compensation for children who have suffered serious brain injury and disability from VKDB caused by mistakes in maternity care.  Early interim payments help support families with additional care for their injured child, adapted accommodation, therapies and specialist equipment. Compensation settlements are individually structured to ensure that money will be available to meet the child’s lifelong care needs, providing financial security and peace of mind.

If you are caring for a child with severe disability from a birth or neonatal brain injury caused by medical negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, contact us on email cerebralpalsy@boyesturner.com.

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