When our youngest daughter was born, we asked our doctor to skip the Vitamin K shot and give it orally to her instead. Our doctors made our choice difficult but in the end, we were able to do it our way.
Our last child was born after three prior losses. All of them, the 20-week pregnancy loss of twins, and losing her three-week-old brother to cardiomyopathy, were due to a rare virus carried in our family called chromosomally integrated HHV-6 (ciHHV-6). I refused all medication during my final pregnancy because we didn’t know what triggered the virus to activate.
When my daughter was born, the doctors and the nonprofit team we’d been working closely with to study ciHHV-6 urged us to consider giving her oral Vitamin K instead of the shot, given to prevent Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). We weren’t quite sure how such a large dose might affect ciHHV-6 if she carried it, but there have been studies that indicate Vitamin K can cause a hypersensitivity reaction.
I also realized that phylloquinone, the natural form of vitamin K1, is not actually in the vitamin K shot. Instead, the shot contains phytonadione, a synthetic vitamin K1 analog. Phytonadione can cause severe, sometimes fatal, allergic reactions when injected into a muscle or vein. Until she was tested for this virus, they didn’t want to take any chances. Any kind of allergic reaction can cause a reactivation of ci-HHV6.
After birth, I let the nurse know we wouldn’t be allowing the shot, but requesting the oral Vitamin K. This brought up a whole host of issues for the staff, who became visibly irritated with my choice and questioned the validity of the virus we’d been learning about for over a year. The head pediatrician was brought in to explain to me the risks of our request, asking if I’d “just googled this virus thing.”
Livid, I pushed back even harder for what we believed to be the right choice for us. We understood that the injection is given to prevent bleeding because babies don’t make these clotting factors usually until 6 months of age. We also knew if babies don’t get this medication, they can have brain bleeding, GI bleeding, or hemorrhage to death. I didn’t want to put my child at any more risk than she was with a rare virus, but we wanted to minimize the risk of that kind of bleeding in a different way than what was normally given.
After a lot of stalling and claiming they didn’t have any of the oral medicine available (which was why I’d requested it weeks prior to going into labor) they found some and gave her the first round of dosing. Weeks later, we found that our daughter did have ciHHV-6, and so could have had an adverse reaction to the Vitamin K shot. We also had our story published in The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation the following year.
Many families choose the oral dose for different reasons. Whatever your decision is, make sure you talk to your health care providers ahead of time about your wishes and include it in your birth plan as well. You don’t need a reason like mine to ask for something different than what mainstream health care usually provides, and you shouldn’t be made to feel bad for your choice either.
Photo: Marius Pirvu/Shutterstock
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