Vitamin K is all about coagulation; in fact, its name is derived from the German word for that particular hematological event, which is "koagulation." If you are deficient in this vitamin, you may not properly form blood clots necessary to stop bleeding in the event of an injury. Newborns are particularly vulnerable to vitamin K deficiency, to such a degree that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns receive an injection of vitamin K.
Understanding Vitamin K
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient, meaning that your body cannot synthesize it; you must obtain this vitamin through dietary sources. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in plants and synthesized by bacteria. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, are generally good sources of vitamin K. Some vegetable oils, such as olive, soybean and canola oil, are also good sources.
Vitamin K is not readily carried through the placenta, and as a result may not be adequately represented in the newborn upon birth. Additionally, breast milk is low in vitamin K. Newborns who are deficient in vitamin K may not be able to handle the blood loss that can result from injury. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, concern over brain hemorrhaging is one of the primary reasons for vitamin K supplementation in newborns. Brain injuries can occur during the passage through the birth canal and pose a particular danger in newborns who have inadequate vitamin K to stop the bleeding.
How Vitamin K Works to Stop Bleeding
Insufficient vitamin K hinders the full expression of the "coagulation cascade," a series of hematological reactions involving a variety of substances called clotting factors. The coagulation cascade is a specific series of reactions. An aberration in any one of these steps can prevent a blood clot from properly forming. Seven of the clotting factors require vitamin K to function. Without enough vitamin K, the coagulation cascade is interrupted, and uncontrolled bleeding can continue.
Dosage for Newborns
Your doctor may administer vitamin K injections immediately after birth to prevent bleeding in your newborn. According to MayoClinic.com, the dosage is typically 0.5 to 1 mg, injected subcutaneously or intramuscularly. This dosage may be repeated 6 to 8 hours later. The Linus Pauling Institute adds that the adequate intake dosage established for vitamin K in infants from birth to 6 months of age is 2 micrograms per day. Consult your doctor before giving your newborn vitamin K.