NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A recent study by physicians at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee reveals that babies who are not receiving vitamin K shots after birth are more at risk for internal bleeding and even death.
The risk is rare, but Linda Lawson, the director of women and children's services at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital, says they have had about 100 patients just this year refuse the vitamin K injection for their newborn.
"It's a risk. It is rare, but it is a risk. The literature says it can be in 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 5,000 that it can affect. But the problem is, if that's your baby--that 1 in 5,000 is an insignificant number because it's your baby," Lawson said.
Most babies are born with low levels of vitamin K because it is not easily transferable in the placenta from the mother to the baby, Lawson said. While not all babies who don't get the shot will have symptoms, there is a risk of brain hemmoraging or even death.
"They start getting the neurological signs of sleepiness, not eating, what we call lethargic--they usually have a brain bleed at that point," Lawson said.
They can even have gastrointestinal bleeding, and without vitamin K, babies run the risk of bleeding out because their blood cannot clot.
"Vitamin K is developed in the bacteria of your gut and a baby is born without that bacteria in their stomach so that's why we give them the injection is to prevent those babies who might have a disorder with clotting," Lawson said.
Lawson says she is incredibly passionate about the injection, which has been distributed to newborns since the 1940's, because she has experienced loss.
"In my 30 years here, I've seen two babies with this hemorraging because of the lack of the vitamin K injections. One died and one had permanent brain damage," Lawson said.
That's why Lawson has made it her mission to make sure parents, like Yasmine Martinez's, are educated about the risks.
"I'm very passionate about this. By the time you realize that your child is having a bleeding episode or a bleeding problem, it's too late," Lawson said.
Bleeding can occur within two weeks after the baby is born, and the only thing a hospital can do is surgery to drain the blood. But Lawson says that can cause seizures and permanent brain damage.
Yasmine's parents told me through a translator that they decided to do the vitamin K shot because they didn't want to put their baby at risk. They also said their oldest daughter had the shot.
Lawson says she understand why many parents will decline the shot.
"They're seeing literature on the Internet that is linking it to leukemia so when I talk to the parents you can't hardly blame them for not wanting to put their baby in that position," Lawson said.
But those studies have been disproved, she adds, stating that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all parents to give their newborns the vitamin K shot.
Lawson says she always asks permission before she gives the shot and will never administer the shot without consent, but she recommends all parents read up about the shot before they make a decision.
"It's very important for parents to truly understand what the risks are before they make that decision and I think that they are getting information off the Internet that is not scientifically substantiated and it's scaring us," Lawson said.