Three Common Medical Newborn Procedures

newborn medical procedures

Part of our practice as doulas and childbirth educators is to discuss procedures that happen during or after birth. Three common ones involve your newborn baby.  They are erythromycin eye ointment, vitamin K injection and hepatitis B vaccine.

Erythromycin eye ointment

This is an antibiotic ointment that goes into your baby’s eyes right after birth, with the intent of preventing ophthalmia neonatorum (ON) – a type of pink eye that can cause blindness. The two main causes of this infection are if the mother has chlamydia and/or gonorrhea, two forms of sexually transmitted infections.

Vitamin K injection

Vitamin K is a vitamin needed for blood clotting. Our bodies do not make Vitamin K on our own – we get it from eating specific foods or from bacteria in our gut. A baby who does not have enough vitamin K can develop sudden bleeding – vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB). Vitamin K levels are the lowest in a two to three day-old newborn and don’t reach adult levels until around six months of age. Very little vitamin K is transferred via the placenta and babies don’t have enough bacteria in their gut to create it. Additionally, breast milk has very little vitamin K. To receive this vitamin, your baby is given an injection shortly after birth, and parents can request a “preservative-free” version.

Read more about the evidence on the Vitamin K shot for newborns here.

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B is a serious infection communicated through blood or sexual contact. If your baby is born in the hospital, medical providers will give her an injection prior to discharge.

Like all other procedures, these are choices you can accept or decline. Discuss each of these options with your doctor or midwife.

About Amy Lewis

Amy is the co-owner of Buddha Belly. She is passionate about assisting women through life's most challenging transitions and nurtures a lifelong commitment to women in serving mothers as a doula. She is certified by ProDoula as a labor doula, postpartum and infant care doula and postpartum specialist. She was certified by the Healthy Children Project and the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice as a lactation counselor and is a birth, newborn and breastfeeding educator. > keep reading

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