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Pregnancy Problems

Hepatitis During Pregnancy

All the information you need to know about being pregnant with hepatitis A, B or C.

What is hepatitis during pregnancy?

Hepatitis is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are several different kinds of hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

What are the signs of hepatitis during pregnancy?

Common signs of hepatitis include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, feverabdominal pain and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. The problem is, depending on the type of virus, symptoms might not show up for months or years after infection, or you may have no symptoms at all.

Are there any tests for hepatitis during pregnancy?

Yes. A blood test can indicate the presence of hepatitis. Other blood tests can show how badly the liver has been affected.

How common is hepatitis during pregnancy?

About 0.1 to 2 percent of Americans have hepatitis.

How did I get hepatitis?

Hepatitis B is spread through infected blood and body fluids. That means you can get it from unprotected sex with an infected person or from being poked with a needle used by someone with the infection. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through contaminated blood, though in rare cases, it can also be spread through sexual contact. Hepatitis A is usually spread through the feces — there have been cases where people have been infected by eating food handled by someone who didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.

How will hepatitis affect my baby?

Your baby should be fine throughout the pregnancy. The biggest risk is that your baby could become infected at birth. That’s why all pregnant women are tested for hepatitis B. If your test shows you’ve been infected, your doctor will take steps to minimize your baby’s chances of infection.

“[Certain] invasive practices in labor will be avoided [if you have hepatitis],” says James O’Brien, MD, ob-gyn, medical director of inpatient obstetrics at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, so baby doesn’t get infection. “The newborn should also receive an injection of hepatitis immune globulin and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth.” (See next page for hepatitis treatments.)

What’s the best way to treat hepatitis during pregnancy?

If you are exposed to hepatitis during pregnancy, you may be given immune globulin to prevent you from getting the disease. Advanced cases of hepatitis may need to be treated with antiviral medications.

What can I do to prevent hepatitis?

Get vaccinated! Highly effective hepatitis A and B vaccines are now available. You should also practice safe sex and not share needles.

Are there any other resources for hepatitis during pregnancy?

Hepatitis Central

Hepatitis B Foundation

Plus, more from The Bump:

Vaccines During Pregnancy

What blood tests do I need during pregnancy?

Your Guide to Prenatal Tests and Doctor Visits

By Jennifer L.W. Fink