Immunizations and vaccinations

Eye disease prevention

To avert the possibility of gonorrhea being passed from mother to baby, all states require that infants' eyes be protected from this infection immediately after birth. Gonorrheal eye infections were a leading cause of blindness until early in the 20th century, when postnatal treatment of babies' eyes became mandatory.

Soon after your baby's birth, an antibiotic ointment or solution, commonly either erythromycin or tetracycline, is placed onto his or her eyes. These preparations are gentle to the eyes and cause no pain.

Vitamin K injection

In the United States, vitamin K is routinely given to infants shortly after they're born. Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood coagulation, the body's process for stopping bleeding after a cut or bruise. Newborns have low levels of vitamin K in their first few weeks. The injection can help prevent the rare possibility — one in 4,000 births — that a newborn would become so deficient in vitamin K that serious bleeding might develop. This problem is unique to babies in their first several weeks of life. It's not related to hemophilia.

Hepatitis B vaccination

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver. It can cause such illnesses as cirrhosis and liver failure, or it can result in the development of liver tumors. Adults contract hepatitis through sexual contact, shared needles or exposure to the blood of an infected person. Babies, however, can contract hepatitis B from their mothers during pregnancy and birth.

The hepatitis B vaccine can protect infants from any possible contact with this virus. Therefore, your baby may be given this vaccine in the hospital or birthing center shortly after birth. Alternatively, the hepatitis B vaccinations may be given along with other immunizations at two months.

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