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The importance of vitamin K for you and your baby

Vitamin K in pregnancy Heal with it

SUMMARY

Because vitamin K is essential for blood clotting, it’s important to make sure you and your baby get enough in preparation for labour and the recovery afterwards. Although vitamin K deficiency is rare, an injection is often given to babies just after they’re born to minimise this risk.

Why is vitamin K so important?

As well as being needed for healthy bone development and protein formation in the liver, vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting1, enabling wounds to heal properly. This is particularly important during labour and just after you’ve given birth, when your body is recovering and starting to heal2. Sufficient levels of vitamin K are also crucial for your baby immediately after birth and, while vitamin K deficiency in babies is very rare, it can lead to a condition that increases their risk of bleeding too much2.

“Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting, which helps wounds heal properly.”

Vitamin K and your pregnancy diet

Fortunately, it should be easy to get all the vitamin K that you and your baby need from a healthy, well-balanced diet. And because it’s fat-soluble, your body can build up stores in the liver, ready for when you need it. More good news is that the nutrient content of vitamin K-rich foods isn’t usually affected by cooking.

“Vitamin K is readily available from many foods so, if you eat a well-balanced diet, you’re probably getting enough.”

Vitamin K is stored in the body so you don't need to consume it every day.

How much vitamin K do you need?

The amount of vitamin K you need depends on your size: you need around 1mcg per kg of body weight per day. So if you weigh 65kg, you need 65mcg of vitamin K per day1.

Some medical conditions can affect your ability to absorb nutrients, and if there’s a risk you may not be getting enough vitamin K, you may need to take a supplement. If you’re concerned about this, consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner first, as taking a supplement unnecessarily can affect your baby3.

 As well as being needed for healthy bone development and protein formation in the liver, vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting1, which enables wounds to heal properly.

Protecting your baby with vitamin K at birth

Although a significant deficiency is unlikely, babies are sometimes born with low vitamin K levels. They’ll usually be given a booster injection shortly after they’re born, just to be on the safe side4. If you don’t like the idea of your baby being injected, they can have an oral dose instead.

Foods rich in vitamin K

As well as being needed for healthy bone development and protein formation in the liver, vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting, enabling wounds to heal properly.

Next Steps

Add these sources of vitamin K to your diet:

  • Cereals1
  • Meat and dairy foods1
  • Green leafy vegetables like watercress and spinach1
  • Vegetable oils, e.g. soya1

View references

Hide references

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1. NHS UK. Vitamin K [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-K.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

2. Shahrook S et al. Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy for improving outcomes. The Cochrane Library, 2014.

3. Stazi AV, Mantovani A. A risk factor for female fertility and pregnancy: celiac disease. Gynecoll Endocrinol 2000;14(6):454-463.

4. Puckett RM, Offringa M. Prophylactic vitamin K for vitamin K deficiency bleeding in neonates. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4, 2000.

Last reviewed: 18th August 2014
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