Doctor concerns mount as parents reject Vitamin K shot

vitamin K
An undated photo shows a packaged dose of vitamin K.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A decision made in the moments after a baby is born is raising concerns from some West Michigan doctors.

The minutes after childbirth are a whirlwind: the umbilical cord is cut, the baby’s heart rate, breathing, reflex response and color are all analyzed, and most babies will get an injection of vitamin K.

But as many women take more control of what happens during childbirth, some parents are saying “no” to the vitamin K shot.

“You hear vitamin. That sounds good, right? Vitamins are great but this particular vitamin has a black box warning,” said mother of four Laura Roush.

Roush gave birth to all of her children at the same hospital where she was also born. The hospital was the same, but Roush’s views and delivery room decisions changed over the years.

Roush’s first three children had the vitamin K shot.

“That last one was the only one that did not. And he’s fantastic,” she said.


Roush isn’t alone, which is why one pediatrician is worried.

“Vitamin K is given to prevent what we call ‘hemorrhagic disease’ of the newborn,” said Dr. Dan McGee of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Dan McGee
Dr. Dan McGee of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital discusses the benefits of vitamin K.

McGee says babies are born with insufficient amounts of vitamin K, which is used to help the blood clot. He says babies who don’t receive vitamin K are at higher risk for internal bleeding that can cause permanent disability and even death.

“It’s surprising people are objecting to this. This is something we’ve been doing since the 1950s,” said McGee.


But in the 1990s, a study tied vitamin K to an increase risk for leukemia. Multiple studies disproved it, but that initial information is giving some parents pause.

“Sadly too, a lot of the questions that I think that I have asked about this particular topic are not easily answered. You know, they’re not readily available answers,” said Roush.

A simple Google search of vitamin K pulls up, where you will find information on “severe reactions” including fatal “gasping syndrome,” as well as the black box warning Roush mentioned.


“Any doctor you talk to is going to recommend what’s recommended by the American Pediatrics Association,” said Roush.

vitamin K
An undated photo shows a packaged dose of vitamin K.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “Vitamin K be given to all newborn infants as a single, intramuscular dose of 0.5 to 1 milligram.”

However, Roush said her youngest child who did not receive vitamin K is also her healthiest child.

“Whether you believe in God or evolution, there is a reason that baby is born with low vitamin K. I would really like them to look at that and find the reason why,” said Roush.

For Dr. McGee, the case is closed.

“The vitamin K shot is given for a reason. It’s to help prevent a preventable problem. I don’t understand why people think we’re wrong on this.”

As far as adverse reactions to vitamin K, McGee says he has never heard of any. He said he has, however, seen multiple cases of intracranial bleeds due to the refusal of vitamin K.



CDC on Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding American Academy of Pediatrics vitamin K recommendations