It s hard to believe, but some parents are refusing to let their newborn babies receive injections of vitamin K, according to the CDC a practice that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended for over 50 years. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting, but babies are born with very low levels of the vitamin, since it doesn t pass from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. Similarly, breast milk doesn t provide adequate amounts of vitamin K either. This means that newborns are at risk for uncontrolled bleeding especially in the brain and intestinal tract conditions that can be life-threatening. Until infants start eating solid food, they won t be getting adequate amounts of vitamin K.
A survey, published in the Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, indicates that the many parents are ignorant about the necessity for vitamin K. Dr. S. Eventov-Friedman from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues queried 217 participants, of whom 151 were women. Eighty-five percent of those questioned were expecting their first child. Although nearly 70 percent of the parents had academic degrees of one sort or another, almost one quarter of them didn t know about the recommendation to provide newborns with vitamin K. Furthermore, even new new parents who knew about this issue hadn t yet decided whether or not to have their babies be given vitamin K.
More recently, a Canadian study, published in Pediatrics, examined the association between parents refusal of vitamin K and their refusal of vaccinations in general. Led by Dr. Shannon E. MacDonald of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, the researchers examined data on all infants born between 2005 and 2012 in Alberta.
The study included over 280,000 children, of whom only 0.3 percent (about 850 babies) were not given vitamin K injections. The factors that were significantly associated with vitamin K refusal included midwife-assisted deliveries, planned home deliveries, and delivery in a birth center. Not surprisingly, vitamin K refusal was associated with a 15-fold increasedrisk of the child having no vaccinations whatsoever by the age of 15 months.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava comments I find it frightening and frustrating that the baseless fear of vaccines can lead to parents putting their infants at risk. Vitamin K injections have absolutely nothing to do with vaccines. So, even if there were a real vaccine safety issue (and we have repeatedly written about the fact that there is none), the refusal to provide protection by injecting a vitamin is a ridiculous, but real indication of this mindset of these parents. This latest study should help educators pinpoint those parents and healthcare providers who are most in need of education about the necessity of vitamin K for newborns.