Diseases & Conditions
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 a newborn 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 have seizure disorders and take anticonvulsant medications
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. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of VKDB may resemble 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 examination, a diagnosis is based on the signs of bleeding and by laboratory tests for blood clotting times.
Treatment for vitamin K deficiency bleeding
Specific treatment for VKDB will be determined by your baby's doctor 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 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.