Vitamin K in pregnancy

Vitamin K is a group of vitamins which the body needs for blood clotting and helping wounds to heal properly1

It’s important to make sure that you and your baby are getting enough vitamin K during pregnancy, and in preparation for labour and your recovery afterwards2, 3. But just what is the importance of vitamin K during pregnancy? How much of it do you need? And why is it given to newborn babies immediately after birth?

Below you’ll find the answer to all these questions, and more information and advice around vitamin K and pregnancy.  

Pouring milk into cereal

Why is vitamin K so important during pregnancy   

The role vitamin K plays in blood clotting is perhaps the most crucial when it comes to giving birth and recovery after labour. That’s because vitamin K can help to reduce the risk of maternal bleeding4. This is particularly helpful after birth, when your body needs to heal.

Beyond this, vitamin K is also needed for healthy bone development and protein formation in the liver5.

Getting enough vitamin K is also crucial for newborn babies. That’s because, although very rare, low levels of vitamin K can lead to a condition called haemorrhagic disease, which increases their risk of bleeding too much6.

How much vitamin K do you need when you’re pregnant?

The exact amount of vitamin K you need depends on your size. According to the NHS, the average healthy adult needs 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

You should be able to get enough vitamin K by eating a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet1, and as a fat-soluble vitamin7, your body can build up stores of vitamin K in the liver, ready to use when you need it1

It’s worth noting that some medical conditions and medications (warfarin being one such example) can affect your ability to absorb nutrients like vitamin K. As such, if there’s a risk you’re not getting enough, you may need to take a vitamin K supplement to ensure that you get a consistent and adequate intake7.

If you have any concerns about your intake of vitamin K in pregnancy, talk to your GP or midwife, specially before taking any supplements or making any changes to your diet.


What are the warning signs of low levels of vitamin K?

A deficiency in vitamin K is quite rare, and often it doesn’t result in any significant complications. However, for those who have liver disease, or a health condition that affects how they absorb vitamins and minerals (for example celiac disease), the risk of bleeding is higher8.

For adults, low levels of vitamin K can result in weakened bones, fracture and osteoporosis8. In babies, symptoms of low levels of vitamin K include bleeding from their bottom, umbilical cord stump, nose and gums. You may also see blood in their urine, and bruises on their skin9.

Does vitamin K have any side effects?

There’s little evidence to suggest that an excessive amount of vitamin K in pregnancy will result in any side-effects. However, you should always consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, and only do so when advised by a healthcare professional6

Which foods contain vitamin K?

Foods rich in vitamin K include1, 11:

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Vegetable oils such as rapeseed, olive and soya
  • Cereal grains

There are also small amounts of vitamin K to be found in some meat and dairy products1.

Why not try increasing your intake with these vitamin K-rich snacks and meals:

Protecting your baby with vitamin K at birth

Although a significant deficiency is unlikely, newborn babies arrive into the world with low levels of vitamin K in their blood. This can sometimes result in newborn babies bleeding- known as vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)9.

As a result, your newborn baby will be offered a single injection of vitamin K shortly after birth, just to be on the safe side. If you don’t like the idea of your baby having an injection, vitamin K can be given by mouth instead9.

Will my newborn baby experience any side effects from vitamin K?

The NHS strongly recommends that your newborn baby has the vitamin K injection, as even though VKBD is very rare, it can also be unpredictable, making it very difficult to know whether your newborn baby is at risk11.

How do I get vitamin K for my baby?

It’s likely that your midwife will discuss your options with regard to vitamin K during your antenatal appointments, so that a note can be taken about whether or not you want your newborn baby to have the injection3.

The injection will be offered very soon after your baby is born and will be given by a single dose into their thigh. If you opt for your newborn baby to have their vitamin K orally, they’ll need three doses; one immediately after birth, the second when you baby is around seven days old, and the final dose at about six weeks9

If you’ve chosen to formula feed your newborn baby, then only the first two oral doses will be needed, as vitamin K is added to all formula milk. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s worth knowing that breast milk is very low in vitamin K, and as such your baby won’t get the amount they need from breastfeeding alone.

However, breastfeeding is still best for your baby, and this isn’t a reason to not to breastfeed. You should always discuss all of your options with regards to vitamin K with your doctor or midwife9.  

Your baby's future health begins here

At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; and that each new encounter, whether in pregnancy or after birth, can shape your baby’s future development. With our scientific expertise and one-to-one round the clock support, we can help you and your baby embrace tomorrow.

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  1. HS. Vitamin K [online] 2020. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

  2. NCT. Vitamin K and newborns: what you need to know [online] 2018. Available at [Accessed December 2023]

  3. NHS. What happens straight after the birth [online] 2022. Available at [Accessed December 2023]

  4. Kellie FJ. Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy for improving outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jun 26;2017(6):CD010920. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010920.pub2. PMCID: PMC6481496

  5. Vermeer C. Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation - an overview. Food Nutr Res. 2012;56. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.5329. Epub 2012 Apr 2. PMID: 22489224; PMCID: PMC3321262

  6. Shahrook S, Ota E, Hanada N, Sawada K, Mori R. Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy for improving outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 30;8(1):11459. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29616-y. PMID: 30061633; PMCID: PMC6065418

  7. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin K - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals [online] 2021. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

  8. Eden RE, Daley SF, Coviello JM. Vitamin K Deficiency. [Updated 2023 Sep 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

  9. NHS Guys and St Thomas. Overview - Vitamin K and your new baby [online] 2023. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

  10. British Nutrition Foundation. Vitamins and minerals [online]. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

  11. NHS Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals. Vitamin K New Born Babies [online] 2022. Available at [Accessed November 2023]

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