Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects your liver. If you have hepatitis B during pregnancy, you can pass the virus along to your baby during delivery, which can put your baby's long-term health in jeopardy.
Receiving care to prevent or treat hepatitis B is an important part of pregnancy care. With that in mind, the providers at Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology take steps to make sure you and your baby are protected from hepatitis B and other health-threatening conditions.
We would like you to understand how hepatitis B can affect you and your baby, as well as the interventions that can help you both.
A serious infection
Hepatitis is a condition in which your liver becomes inflamed. Hepatitis B is one of several types of “viral” hepatitis, meaning caused by viruses. Others include hepatitis A and hepatitis C, according to the March of Dimes.
Adults become infected with hepatitis B when they’re exposed to blood or body fluids from another person who carries the hepatitis B virus. Common ways for the infection to spread include sharing needles or having sex with an infected individual.
If a pregnant woman has hepatitis B, there’s a danger that she can pass it to her baby during childbirth. Babies who are infected with hepatitis B at birth have a high risk of developing a lifelong hepatitis B infection. Having this infection can cause them to have serious liver disease or even cancer of the liver when they grow up.
Protecting yourself and your baby
You can protect yourself and your baby from hepatitis B infection by taking several important steps.
The first is vaccination. You can receive a hepatitis B vaccine before or during pregnancy. It is highly recommended for people who work in health care or public safety, for those whose partners are infected with hepatitis B, and for those who have multiple sex partners.
You can also protect yourself by practicing safe sex, not having sex with infected people, and not sharing needles with others. In addition, don't share personal items such as razors or toothbrushes with people who may be infected with hepatitis B.
Care for your baby
When a baby is born to a woman with hepatitis B, the baby has more than 90% chance of developing chronic hepatitis, according to the Hepatitis B Foundation. However, that risk falls dramatically if your baby receives medication soon after birth. This medication can prevent the virus from infecting your baby.
To check your hepatitis B status, we test you for the virus, usually during your first trimester. Although all women should be tested, it’s especially important for those who are at high risk for having the virus, including health care workers and partners of infected people.
If you are infected and your newborn receives two doses of hepatitis B medication, your baby has only about a 10% chance of developing hepatitis. You also need to make sure your baby gets the rest of the series of vaccines on schedule to provide the best protection.
Take good care during your pregnancy
Receiving regular prenatal care is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Be sure to attend all of your prenatal visits. Our doctors and midwives can answer your questions about hepatitis B protection, your sexual health, or any other concerns you may have. Contact our office in Albany, New York, to make an appointment.