Causes & Treatment of Hemorrhagic Disease in Newborns
When you’ve just welcomed a new baby into the world, one of the most upsetting things you can hear is that your child has a bleeding disorder. While some conditions, such as intracranial hemorrhages, can be caused by birth asphyxia or by some type of physical trauma, other types of bleeding disorders can be caused by other problems, like a vitamin deficiency.
People need vitamin K to be able to form blood clots that prevent excessive bleeding, but when babies are born, they don’t have enough vitamin K in their systems to control bleeding. If a baby isn’t given a vitamin K shot shortly after birth, they can develop a hemorrhagic disease known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). When a child has VKDB, it can cause internal bleeding in places such as in the intestines or brain, or they may have problems with nosebleeds or bleeding around the umbilical cord. Babies with VKDB may also show symptoms like bruising, pale skin/gums, seizures, or being excessively tired.
VKDB is extremely preventable, but if a doctor neglects to give a newborn baby that vitamin K shot after birth, the results can potentially be life-threatening. Without it, all babies face a risk of developing VKDB since they naturally have so little vitamin K in their bodies and because breastmilk does not contain high amounts of vitamin K. A child can also be at a higher risk of developing VKDB if the child has liver disease, celiac disease, or cystic fibrosis, or if the mother used certain medications during pregnancy that impact the way her body uses vitamin K.
Without a vitamin K shot, an infant is 81 times more likely to develop VKDB than infants who receive the shot. VKDB can develop in infants until they are 6 months old. Most commonly, VKDB is classified as Early VKDB, meaning it develops within the first 24 hours after birth, or as Classical VKDB, meaning it develops within 1-7 days after birth. Early VKDB and Classical VKDB are the most common types of VKDB, but Late VKDB can occur between the time the child is 2 weeks old and 6 months old. While Late VKDB is rarer than other types of VKDB, it’s important to note that this type can be very serious since the CDC estimates that about 30%-60% of infants with Late VKDB experience bleeding in the brain.
If your child develops VKDB after birth, your doctor will determine how to treat it based on the specifics of your child’s situation. In cases involving severe bleeding, your child may need a blood transfusion to help them recover.
VKDB is a condition that is so simple to prevent that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every baby receive the vitamin K shot shortly after delivery. If your doctor neglected to give your child this shot and they developed complications from VKDB afterward, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a birth trauma lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in handling a wide range of birth injury cases. Contact us today for help with your case.