To understand the pros and cons of the vitamin k shot given at birth to newborns we need to know why the practice was started and also look at how babies are made to function. Do the positives outweigh the risks? Is there an alternative?
When is the Vitamin K shot given?
The vitamin K shot is routinely given to newborns within a couple hours of when a baby is born. The parents have to explicitly refuse the shot for it to not be given to their child. This generally involves signing some papers saying you are refusing.
Why is vitamin K given?
Babies (mammals in general) are born with low levels of vitamin k compared to adults. Perhaps intentionally? More on that later. They also lack the colonization of bacteria in their intestines that make vitamin k.
Between the 5th to 7th day of an infant’s life they start to produce adequate amounts of vitamin k on their own.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending the Vitamin K shot since 1961 in the hopes of reducing incidences of Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), previously called hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. This happens when a newborn is unable to stop bleeding because their blood cannot clot.
There are three types of VKDP. Early which occurs, within the first day of life. This usually occurs in babies to mothers on certain medications that mess with vitamin k.
Classic VKDP is bleeding from the umbilical cord that occurs within the first week of life.
Late VKDP takes place within the first 6 months of life, but generally occurs within 2-8 weeks after birth.
How common is VKDB?
The incidence of classic VKDB without vitamin K supplementation is estimated to be 0.25-1.7%. And that is without delayed cord clamping being standard practice.1
The incidence of early VKDB is 0.4%-1.6% and as mentioned before is most common in babies born to mothers on medications like antiseizure medications that mess with vitamin k.2
The overall chance of VKDP is rather low and the chance of death from it is even lower.
Types of Vitamin K shots and drops
It is important to note that the vitamin K shot and drops are not just a vitamin and the part that is a vitamin is a man-made version.
Shot option with preservative
Option 1 contains 9mg of benzyl alcohol as its main preservative. Benzyl alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can cause sleepiness, convulsions, lack of desire to eat, respiratory depression, decreased oxygen stats, and decreased heart rate. Neonatal deaths have been documented connected to the use of benzyl alcohol as well.3
The benzyl alcohol also stresses the liver. Is it possible this is part of the cause of jaundice in infants?
Shot option without preservative
The preservative free option contains 10 mg of polysorbate 80. Polysorbate 80 opens up the blood brain barrier, which is already not fully formed in infants. It is also documented in the medical literature to cause premature ovarian failure and infertility.
In January 2016, the American College of Pediatrics spoke up about their concern regarding Gardasil with 50 mcg of polysorbate 80, and its potential effects on children and teenagers’ fertility, as it was documented to cause premature ovarian failure.4
Gardasil contains 0.05mg (50mcg) polysorbate 80.
Vitamin K contains 10 mg polysorbate 80.
That means there is 200 times more polysorbate 80 in the preservative free vitamin k shot than the Guardasil that the American College of Pediatrics was so concerned about. Yikes!
Infants are also routinely given the hepatitis b vaccine at the same time as the vitamin k shot. The vitamin k with polysorbate 80 opens the blood-brain-barrier and then the hepatitis b vaccine contains 250mg of aluminum that can now enter the brain easily.
If vitamin k is needed the oral drops have shown to be the safest. There is several different vitamin k drop brands available and the ingredients vary greatly between each brand. Some come with preservatives and some without.
Black Box Warning
A black box warning is the strictest warning by the FDA for prescription drugs and drug products when there is reasonable evidence of an association of a serious hazard with the drug or drug product. A black box warning means that an adverse reaction to the drug may lead to death or serious injury. It’s based on clinical data or serious animal toxicity data if there is no clinical data. Sometimes a black box warning is listed when a new drug is approved, but most often it comes after the fact. If the FDA has received reports of adverse events, then the FDA confirms the serious risk. From there depending on the severity of adverse event a black box warning is added.
The vitamin k shots have a black box warning, which you can see below. On the package insert it is literally a warning with a black box around it.
Can an infant’s body even handle the vitamin K shot/drops?
To be able to absorb vitamin K you need a functioning biliary and pancreas system. An infant’s digestive system isn’t fully developed at birth, which is why babies consume colostrum first then move to breast milk and solids are delayed until they are at least 6 months old. This is also why breast milk only contains a small amount of highly absorbable vitamin K. Too much vitamin K can tax the liver causing brain damage and other problems. As an infant grows and develops their mucosal lining, digestive tract, gut flora and enzyme functions develop which enable the baby to process more vitamin k.
By the 5th to 7th day of life outside of the womb baby’s start producing notable amounts of vitamin k themselves. This is why the Jew’s were able to circumcise on the 8th day without babies bleeding out.
Research has shown an increase in cancer rates connected to administration of specifically the vitamin k shot at birth. This increase in cancer rates was not seen with the use of the oral vitamin K drops. Making the drops a much better option if you as the parent feel the pros outweigh the cons for your specific situation.5
Other Side Effects of the vitamin k shot
There are several other documented side effects of the vitamin k shot such as severe hypotension, bradycardia or tachycardia, dyspnea, bronchospasm, cardiac arrest and death.6 Also make sure to check the package insert for additional information on how it was tested and other potential side effects.
Built in Protection against VKDB
Baby’s actually come with a built-in mechanism to protect against bleeding when we respect nature and allow the body to do what it was made to do. Mammals in general are born with ‘low’ vitamin k yet they survive, and humans survived all the way up to 1961 without vitamin k intervention.
So, what is this natural mechanism that the body has to protect itself?
The stem cells in the umbilical cord blood.
How do Babies get these stem cells?
Delayed cord clamping.
I’m not talking a minute delay; I’m talking waiting until the cord stops pulsing and is white before the cord is cut.
Without proper delayed cord clamping the baby misses out on their cord blood which contains stem cells. These stem cells can go anywhere and protect the infant against bleeding and perform all sorts of needed repairs inside the infant’s body. In addition to delaying cord clamping in order for the baby to get the benefit of these stem cells, their blood also needs to stay thin so that the stem cells can easily get to where they are needed in order to perform their job.
The vitamin k shot and drops thicken the blood making it hard for the body to do what it was made to do. Therefore, shutting down the body’s natural repair and protection system.
Before cutting the cord you want it to be white and have stopped pulsing like the cord is in this photo.
Vitamin k shot Alternatives
In addition to delaying cord clamping there is also the option of using homeopathy. Specifically, arnica in a 200c potency. Arnica is great for tissue repair and also helps with blood clotting.
If there is a reason for concern such as the mother is on drugs that mess with vitamin k, then the oral drops are a better alternative than the shot.
All mammals are born with what is considered low vitamin k, but they were also born with a built-in mechanism to protect themselves as well.
Within the first week of life babies start producing their own vitamin k.
Overall unless there is some additional risk factor the pros really do not outweigh the cons of the vitamin k shot.
The Big Question
The big question is: did God make a mistake?
Or did he create us the way we are suppose to be, with low clotting factors and low levels of vitamin k for the first few days of life?
Within that is your answer, barring any unnormal circumstances, of whether your child should be receiving the vitamin k shot.
Instead of injecting babies with an artificial form of vitamin k why aren’t we delaying cord clamping and in situations where there is substantial risk of VKDB using oral vitamin k?
- Vitamin K Deficiency – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- What is Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding? | CDC
- Neonatal Deaths Associated With Use Of Benzyl Alcohol — United States (cdc.gov)
- Microsoft Word – 1.26.16 – New Concerns about the HPV vaccine.docx (acpeds.org)
- Childhood cancer, intramuscular vitamin K, and pethidine given during labour – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Characterizing the Severe Reactions of Parenteral Vitamin K1 – Rachel B. Britt, Jamie N. Brown, 2018 (sagepub.com)