Vitamin K & RH Factor

Vitamin K helps blood to clot. It is essential to prevent serious bleeding. Babies do not get enough vitamin K from their mothers during pregnancy, or when they are breast-feeding. Without vitamin K, they are at risk of getting a rare disorder called vitamin K deficiency bleeding. This can cause bleeding into the brain, and may result in brain damage or even death.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding can be prevented by giving new babies extra vitamin K. By the age of about 6 months, they have built up their own supply. The easiest and most reliable way to give babies vitamin K is by injection (shot). One injection just after birth will protect a baby for many months. All babies need to have vitamin K. Very small or premature babies may need smaller doses - your health care provider can advise you about this.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a single shot for all babies. This includes babies who are premature or sick and babies who are having surgery (including circumcision).

The Rh Factor

Just as there are different blood types, like A and B, there is also an Rh factor in everyone's blood. Rh is a type of protein in red blood cells. Most people have it and are "Rh positive." People who do not have it are "Rh negative." Neither state affects your health, but the Rh factor can cause problems for babies.

If you are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive, the exchange of blood cells between you and your baby will cause your body to produce antibodies that fight Rh positive blood cells. This will not affect your first baby, but in your next Rh positive pregnancy, your antibodies may attack your baby's blood cells, causing brain damage or even death. Fortunately, these problems can almost always be prevented. Your health care provider will test your blood to determine your Rh factor status, and if you are Rh negative, can give you a medicine during pregnancy and after birth that prevents the antibodies from forming.