Vitamin K in pregnancy
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Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and helping wounds heal properly. It’s important to make sure you and your baby get enough in preparation for labour and your recovery afterwards. Although vitamin K deficiency is rare, an injection is given to all babies just after they’re born to minimise this risk.
As well as playing a key role in blood clotting, vitamin K is also needed for healthy bone development and protein formation in the liver1. 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 called haemorrhagic disease that increases their risk of bleeding too much2.
You should easily be able to get all the vitamin K that you and your baby need by eating a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet. The nutrient content of vitamin K-rich foods isn’t usually affected by cooking, and because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, your body can build up stores of it in your liver, ready for when you need it.
It’s worth noting that some medical conditions and medications can affect your ability to absorb nutrients like vitamin K. If there’s a risk you’re not getting enough, you may need to take a supplement. If you have any concerns, talk to your GP or midwife, as taking a supplement unnecessarily can affect your baby3.
The exact amount of vitamin K you need depends on your size. According to the NHS, adults need approximately 1mcg a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of their body weight. So if you weigh 65kg, you need 65mcg of vitamin K each day1. Just half a cup of cooked broccoli contains 116mcg of vitamin K4.
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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 side6. If you don’t like the idea of your baby being injected, they can have an oral dose instead.
Try increasing your intake with these vitamin K-rich snacks and meals:
- A bowl of vitamin K- fortified breakfast cereal
- Roast asparagus with a poached egg
- Steamed broccoli with your favourite salad dressing
- Oven-baked kale crisps
- Sesame-crusted tuna steaks with quinoa and baby spinach
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.
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