Houston doctors dispel myths surrounding vitamin K for newborns

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Houston doctors say they are seeing an uptick in parents refusing a routine injection which is considered to be lifesaving for their newborn child. Now they want to dispel the myths circulating around vitamin K.

This comes as the Centers for Control and Disease Prevention has identified a small cluster of infants diagnosed with the potentially fatal bleeding disorder.

Little James Michael, of Houston, was brought into the world on Monday, and within the first hour of life, was given a dose of vitamin K.

"We talked a little bit about this and understood that the benefits far outweighed the risks," said James' father, Kevin Cannon.

"This is the right thing for your child," said James' mother, Jennifer Cannon. "This is the right thing for our child, so we decided it was something we definitely wanted to do."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all newborns be given a single injection of vitamin K when they are born.

"Vitamin K is made by bacteria in the gut, a certain type of bacteria in the gut, and when babies are born, their gut is sterile," said Neonatologist Dr. Tiffany McKee-Garrett, the assistant medical director of the Mother-Baby Unit at the Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. "So they don't have the vitamin K there yet."

The injection jump starts vitamin K production, which promotes the body's ability to clot blood.

Without it, otherwise healthy babies are at risk of vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) within days of birth.

According to the CDC, between February and September 2013, four cases of late VKDB were diagnosed at a Nashville hospital. None of the babies received a vitamin K injection at birth.

"It's spontaneous bleeding. It can be in the intestines. It can be persistent oozing or bleeding from say a poke in the skin," said Dr. McKee-Garrett. "The worst is bleeding in the brain and that can obviously cause the baby brain damage or even death."

Dr. McKee-Garrett said recently some parents have been refusing to give their baby the shot which she said is safe, natural and preservative-free.

Some have questioned whether there is a link to childhood cancer.

"There is no truth to that," Dr. McKee-Garrett said. "That has all proven to be bad information."

The Cannon family is comforted knowing they are giving James the best possible start in life.

"We're ready to bring him home to big brother Brooks and watch them interact and start our family of four," said Jennifer.

Doctors encourage parents who have questions to find answers at accredited websites such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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