Vitamin K deficiency bleeding

Also known as: hemorrhagic disease of the newborn, VKDB.

What is hemorrhagic disease of the newborn?

Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting (coagulation); particularly being associated with coagulation factors V11, 1X, and X. When there is a lack of Vit k blood doesn't clot and bleeding results.

In the newborn baby depending on the cause of the vitamin deficiency, bleeding time after birth can vary quite widely (mostly however between the ages of 1-5 days).

Bleeding after birth is usually classified into 3 distinct time periods.

  • Early-onset deficiency bleeding occurring during the first 24 hours.
  • Classical vit k deficiency with bleeding 24 hours, to up to 1 week after birth.
  • Late-onset vit k deficiency bleeding usually occurring between 2 - 12 weeks after birth.

What causes Vitamin K deficiency bleeding?

Depending on when bleeding after birth occurs, the causes will differ. "Classical" vit k deficiency results from poor transfer of vit k from mother to baby during pregnancy and before the baby is capable of making their own vit k.

What are the signs/symptoms of VKDB?

Bleeding can be seen in the skin/mucus membranes (bruises), from the penis (bloody urine), belly button, gastrointestinal tract (bloody vomit or stool), and into the brain which can result in seizures.

Bleeding into internal organs may occur and may be difficult to detect.

What are hemorrhagic disease of the newborn care options?

An intramuscular injection of vitamin K after birth for "Classical" vit k deficiency bleeding is usually sufficient to stop the bleeding. Other blood factors and/or treatments may be needed for the other causes of bleeding after birth.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: April 07, 2022 02:14 PM

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