The importance of vitamin K during pregnancy
- Vitamin K is essential for maintenance of normal bones and is also important for blood coagulation
- In infancy, babies need enough vitamin K to assist with blood clotting
- Vitamin K is produced by bacteria in the gut, and green leafy vegetables are a good source, too
Why is vitamin K so important?
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. It has calcium-binding properties that are needed for the maintenance of normal bones and is very important for blood coagulation. Its blood clotting properties are important to make sure you have enough blood in preparation for labour and the recovery afterwards.
Once your baby is born, he or she too needs enough vitamin K for blood clotting. Although vitamin K deficiency is very rare, some infants are born with low vitamin K. Because of this, administration of vitamin K is recommended for all infants after birth to minimise the risk of serious bleeding.
Vitamin K and your pregnancy diet
For most people it should be easy to get all the vitamin K that you need from a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy. There is no increase in dietary requirements of vitamin K when you are pregnant. Most of the vitamin K your body requires is made from the bacteria in the gut and the rest is sourced from your diet.
Sources of vitamin K that you can add to your diet include:
- Kale and spinach
- Brussels sprouts
- Vegetable oils (soybean and canola)
During pregnancy, vitamin K from your diet is adequate for both mother and baby. Once they are born, however, he or she will require additional vitamin K to be given via supplementation.
Protecting your baby with vitamin K at birth
Babies are born with inadequate vitamin K stores. Without vitamin K supplementation, your baby is at risk of developing vitamin K bleeding disorder (VKBD), a serious condition that can result in bleeding in the brain, brain damage and sometimes death.
In Australia and New Zealand it is recommended that infants receive a vitamin K injection soon after birth to prevent VKBD, just to be on the safe side. You will be asked to consent to this. It is usually given by your midwife or doctor straight after the birth. The dose given is enough to prevent VKBD until your baby can make its own vitamin K at 6 months of age.
If you don’t like the idea of your baby receiving an injection, then speak to your health care professional prior to giving birth. An oral option is available, but be aware it is not suitable for all babies.