Vitamin K (Phylloquinone) is known as the clotting vitamin as blood would not clot without it. Bruising and excess bleeding would be common symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency as blood clotting would take longer time than usual with deficiency in the vitamin (Bay et al, 2006; DoH, 1998). Specific recommendations of doses of vitamin K may vary according to age, gender and even conditions of health. This essay is however specifically on the application of vitamin K to babies orally or through intravenous means to prevent VKDB in newborns.
Vitamin K deficiency causes a bleeding condition which is known as the hemorrhagic disease of the newborn or HDN and this can occur anytime between the first months of being born (Puckett and Offringa, 2007). Puckett and Offringa (2007) divided hemorrhagic disease of the newborn into three categories of early, classic and late HDN with early HDN occurring within 24 hours, classic HDN occurring between 1 to 7 days and late HDN occurring between 2 to 12 weeks with intracranial, cutaneous or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Bleeding in the newborn can be through gums, nose or gastrointestinal tract especially in babies who had complicated delivery including breech delivery and the risks increase when mothers take certain drugs such as anticonvulsants to treat epileptic conditions during pregnancy. However hemorrhagic bleeding could be prevented by providing vitamin K to babies after birth and babies could also be given vitamin K supplements with parental consent (NICE guidelines, 2006). In certain formula milk available for toddlers in the market, vitamin K has been added because of its attributes of clotting the blood as breast milk is without sufficient vitamin K. Vitamin K is also administered orally or through intravenous means to prevent occurrence of VKDB in newborns (DoH/RCM, 1999). The main focus of this discussion brings out the scientific basis of the application of Vitamin K to newborn babies to prevent the occurrence of VKDB. Usually Vitamin K is given in oral or intravenous form and this study shows the evidence base of such practice.
Considering a background of VKDB or Vitamin K, vitamin K was initially administered selectively to prevent hemorrhagic disease in newborn babies who required medical support at birth (Von Kries, 1998). However it has been recommended that all newborn babies should be given vitamin K prophylactically to protect babies from the rare but serious condition of Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB).
VKDB or Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is however a rare condition and found in 1 in 10000 babies and among the affected babies, at least half will die or may have significant brain damage because there may be internal hemorrhage in the brain. Breastfeeding can develop vitamin K deficiency as vitamin K is not found in required amounts in breast milk so requisite food supplements and extra amounts of vitamin K will have to be provided to the baby after birth (DoH- RCM, 1999, NHS, 2007). Vitamin K is given only to high risk babies and among 800000 births, the deficiency and the bleeding occur in about 80 and among these 4 to 6 may even die due to bleeding into the brain and 20 remain brain