Hepatitis and Pregnancy

Dealing with Hepatitis during Pregnancy

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Hepatitis and Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be the most wonderful time for a woman as she nurtures a new life within her. The same may not be the experience of a woman who is suffering from hepatitis and has gotten the news of her pregnancy. Her excitement and happiness may not be as other women as her mind is disturbed because of two very important questions:

  1. Will my baby get hepatitis from me?
  2. Will my condition (hepatitis) worsen due to my pregnancy?

    This article is for women with similar doubts in their minds regarding their illness. In normal circumstances, pregnancy has no effect on the progress of hepatitis. It’s only in some cases of hepatitis E that we find pregnancy worsening the prevailing condition. If the woman had undergone severe damage to liver due to cirrhosis, there are chances for her to develop acute fatty liver of pregnancy. This disorder occurs due to the deficiency of an enzyme called LCHAD (long-chain 3-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase) which is needed to break down the fatty acids. The unborn child may also get affected and, at times, is born with the same deficiency. The way to manage this case is to make the delivery fast because the woman recovers completely once her baby is delivered.

    Hepatitis A

    • The usual mode of transmission for hepatitis A is the oral-fecal route, like how one can get infected by the consumption of contaminated water
    • One in every thousand pregnant women is affected with this disease
    • The diagnosis is made by assessing the levels of IgG anti HAV antibodies
    • A healthy diet and proper rest are feasible ways to treat this disease
    • Even if the baby is exposed to the infection, it occurs in a mild way. The baby develops a permanent immunity against the disease

      Hepatitis B

      • This form of hepatitis has the highest rate of transmission from a mother to her baby. This is one of the main reasons why the CDC guidelines incorporate the compulsory screening of hepatitis B when a woman comes for her first prenatal visit.
      • Another important fact about this disease is that the woman may have absolutely no symptoms like jaundice, and yet, be in a highly contagious state. So the screening is carried out to detect the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen as well as HBeAg.
      • The infection is transmitted during the process of delivery when the baby is exposed to infected maternal blood or other body fluids.
      • If the woman comes up with a positive result for hepatitis B surface antigen test, she is given hepatitis B immune globulin and her newborn is given the same at birth.
      • To increase level of safety, authorities have made it mandatory for every newborn to get vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine at one week, one month, and six months.

      Hepatitis C

      • If a woman has been exposed to hepatitis C-infected blood through contaminated needles, blood transfusions or intravenous drug use, she must get herself tested for hepatitis C before and during pregnancy.
      • The chances of the baby getting infected from mother depends on two factors mostly. First, the quantitative RNA levels in maternal blood is observed. If the mother is found to have no hepatitis C RNA levels, the baby is safe as there's no risk of transmission. On the other hand, the babies are at the greatest level of risk if the value of hepatitis C RNA titer is more than 1 million copies/mL. Second, whether HIV-positive or not, if the mother is HIV negative, the risk for the baby getting infected reduces to as low as 0 to 18%.
      • There's no known absolute preventive measure that can control the transmission of the infection from mother to baby.


      Floreani A. Hepatitis C and pregnancy. World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Oct 28;19(40):6714-20.

      Sookoian S. Liver disease during pregnancy: acute viral hepatitis. Ann Hepatol. 2006 Jul-Sep;5(3):231-6.

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