Sanborn introduces legislation to protect the health of Maine infants

Posted: February 21, 2019 | Health and Human Services, Senator Linda Sanborn

AUGUSTA — Sen. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, has introduced legislation that would protect Maine infants from serious-to-fatal consequences caused by vitamin K deficiency. The bill — LD 443, “An Act To Prevent Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding and Eye Damage in Infants,” — received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services on Tuesday.

“It’s imperative that we make sure doctors, nurses and midwives do everything we can to ensure the newborns entrusted in our care have a healthy and safe start to life,” said Sen. Sanborn, a retired family physician. “A shot of vitamin K gives these babies the boost they need to ward off serious-to-fatal health complications during the first six months of their life.”

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding can cause bruising, bleeding from the umbilical cord or circumcision, nose bleeds, bleeding into the intestines, or into the brain, which can lead to brain damage and even death. Vitamin K is the best way to prevent these serious health problems. Vitamin K is used by the body to form clots and to stop bleeding.

This bill requires every physician, midwife or nurse in charge at a birth to administer vitamin K to an infant to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding. This bill also removes the exemption for religious tenets and practices for administering erythromycin, which is an antibiotic solution, into an infant’s eyes at birth.

“Infants do not have adequate stores of vitamin K because very little is transferred from the mother during pregnancy and inadequate levels are found in breast milk,” said Dr. Christopher Motyl, a pediatrician who serves on the board of directors of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Since 1961, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all newborns receive intramuscular vitamin K  immediately after the birth to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is preventable with a single intramuscular dose of vitamin K at birth.”

Several other doctors also testified in support of LD 443.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that the risk of late-onset (up to 6 months of age) vitamin K deficiency bleeding is 81 times higher in infants not given vitamin K at birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vitamin K injection be given to all infants within 6 hours of birth.

Erythromycin drops prevent an eye infection that can lead to blindness. The infection can be spread from mother to baby in the birth canal. Hospitals in Maine are seeing opt-out rates remain steady or increase for both vitamin K and erythromycin. Children who do not receive vitamin K or erythromycin are at risk for brain damage and blindness.

Before serving in the Legislature, Sen. Sanborn served as a family physician for 25 years. The bill, LD 443, faces further action in the committee and votes before the full Maine House and Senate.