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More Anti-Vaccine Parents Refusing Vitamin K Shots for Newborns

The Short of It

Doctors are reporting a growing trend among parents who are against vaccines also refusing vitamin K shots for their newborns, which can increase the risk of internal bleeding in the babies' brains or intestines.

The Lowdown

Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that assists the body in blood clot formation. The vitamin is formed in the established digestive systems in older children and adults, but not infants. And unfortunately, breast milk doesn't provide enough vitamin K to ward off possible bleeding disorders associated with vitamin K deficiencies.

In addition to gastrointestinal and brain bleeding, babies with a vitamin K deficiency may have flecks of blood in their stool, be excessively fussy and have severe anemia, which is a shortage of healthy red blood cells. To keep newborns healthy, it's been routine in the United States since 1961 for babies to receive a vitamin K shot shortly after birth.

Dr. Robert Sidonio, Jr., a hematologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, says, the parents who are refusing the shots are probably believing a myth that grew out of one "old" study that said there was a correlation between the vitamin K shot and leukemia, but that data was refuted in several follow-up studies. He says a similar situation happened surrounding the MMR vaccine and autism.

"If you refuse the shot, you're rolling the dice with your child's health," Sidonio told Health Day News.

ER doctors in Ohio and Tennessee have reported an increase in infants with vitamin K deficiency, and further investigating into those cases found the babies had not received their vitamin K shots.

The Upshot

There's a huge trend among parents to have completely natural birthing experiences, from refusing an epidural to taking a baby home from the hospital without it receiving any vaccines. While parents mean well, I think the best ways to ensure a healthy experience is to ask doctors a lot of questions and research legitimate sources. If you're considering refusal of all vaccines, find out the consequences and benefits first. Then, make a decision based on what you know, not what trend you see other parents following.

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