Vitamin K Shot After Birth: Understanding Your Choices

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New parents often have questions Vitamin K shot administered to newborns after birth. Let’s explore why it’s given, its benefits, risks, and your choice to accept or refuse it.

Why Do Newborns Receive the Vitamin K Shot?

Newborns have low levels of Vitamin K, a vital nutrient necessary for blood clotting. Unlike adults, newborns don’t have enough gut bacteria to produce Vitamin K on their own, and the amount they receive through the placenta or breast milk is not enough to bridge this gap. Therefore, babies are given an intramuscular (shot) of vitamin 6 within the first 6 hours of birth.

What are the Benefits of Supplementing Vitamin K in a Newborn?

Nature’s pretty intelligent. So if babies are naturally born with low levels of Vitamin K, why is it a concern, and why do we need to supplement? It all pretty much boils down to Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB)–life-threatening condition that can occur in newborns. It’s marked by uncontrolled bleeding and can happen within the first 24 hours, with onset up to 6 months old. Bleeding can occur from the umbilical cord, circumcision site, or internal bleeding in the brain (1).

The Benefits of the Vitamin K Shot

  1. Prevents Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB): The most significant benefit of the Vitamin K shot is that it prevents VKDB.
  2. Immediate Effectiveness: The shot increases Vitamin K levels right away, offering immediate protection against bleeding disorders.
  3. Long-term Protection: The injection provides enough Vitamin K for several weeks, helping to protect your baby during the time when the risk of VKDB is highest.

Understanding the Risks of the Vitamin K Shot

While the Vitamin K shot is generally considered safe, it’s important to understand any potential risks:

  1. Pain and Discomfort: As with any injection, there can be pain, swelling, or bruising at the injection site. Typically, the shot is given in the muscle of baby’s outer thigh.
  2. Rare Reactions: In very rare cases, there can be an allergic reaction. However, this is extremely uncommon.

Why Do Some Parents Refuse the Vitamin K Shot?

In recent years, more parents refuse the Vitamin K shot. But why? There was a study in 1990 that amade a connection between Vitamin K and childhood cancer–a study that has since been refuted.Yes, parents do have the right to refuse the Vitamin K shot for their newborn. However, it’s essential to make an informed decision.

  1. Discuss with Healthcare Providers: Have a detailed conversation with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks. They can provide personalized information based on your baby’s health and medical history.
  2. Understand the Alternatives: If you’re considering refusal, be aware of the alternative options, such as oral Vitamin K, although it’s less effective than the injection.
  3. Written Refusal: Most hospitals require a written refusal to document that parents are making an informed choice.
  4. Monitoring the Baby: If refused, it’s important to monitor the baby closely for any signs of bleeding or bruising, and seek immediate medical attention if these occur.


The decision to administer the Vitamin K shot to your newborn is an important one. As healthcare professionals, our goal is to ensure that you have all the information you need to make an informed choice. While the shot is a standard and highly recommended procedure to prevent potentially serious bleeding issues in newborns, it’s ultimately the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their child. Whatever your decision, it should be made with a full understanding of the benefits and risks involved.

Remember, the well-being of your newborn is our shared priority. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare team with any questions or concerns you might have regarding the Vitamin K shot or any other aspects of newborn care.


(1) Araki S, Shirahata A. Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding in Infancy. Nutrients. 2020 Mar 16;12(3):780. doi: 10.3390/nu12030780. PMID: 32187975; PMCID: PMC7146284.

(2) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022). Vitamin K and the Newborn Infant. Available from:

(3) Golding, J., Patterson, M., Kinlen, LJ. Factors assoicated with childbhood cancer in a national chort study. Br J Cancer.

Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

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New parents often have questions Vitamin K shot administered to newborns after birth. Let’s explore why it’s given, its benefits, risks, and your choice to accept or refuse it. Why