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HIGH-RISK NEWBORN :: Blood Disorders

Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn (Vitamin K Deficiency)

What is hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?

Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn is a bleeding problem that occurs in a newborn during the first few days of life.

What causes hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?

Babies are normally born with low levels of vitamin K, an essential factor in blood clotting. A deficiency in vitamin K is the main cause of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.

Who is affected by hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?

Vitamin K deficiency may result in bleeding in a very small percentage of babies. Babies at risk for developing hemorrhagic disease of the newborn include the following:

  • babies who do not receive preventative vitamin K in an injection at birth
  • exclusively breastfed babies (breast milk contains less vitamin K than cow's milk formula.)
  • babies whose mothers have seizure disorders and take anti-convulsant medications

Why is hemorrhagic disease of the newborn a concern?

Without the clotting factor, bleeding occurs, and severe bleeding or hemorrhage can result.

What are the symptoms of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?

The following are the most common symptoms of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • blood in the baby's bowel movements
  • blood in urine
  • oozing around the umbilical cord

The symptoms of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis.

How is hemorrhagic disease of the newborn diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a diagnosis is based on the signs of bleeding and by laboratory tests for blood clotting times.

Treatment for hemorrhagic disease of the newborn:

Specific treatment for hemorrhagic disease of the newborn will be determined by your baby's physician based on:

  • your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving every newborn baby an injection of vitamin K after delivery to prevent this potentially life-threatening disease.

If bleeding occurs, vitamin K is also given. Blood transfusions may also be needed if bleeding is severe.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of High-Risk Newborn

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.
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