Hep B Blog

What to do about hepatitis B when you’re pregnant?

Around the world, the most common mode of hepatitis B transmission is from mother to child. Unfortunately, pregnant mothers who have hepatitis B can transmit the virus to their newborn during the delivery process. 90% of these HBV infected babies will progress to chronic infection  putting them at increased risk of serious liver disease or liver cancer later in life.

It is important that ALL pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B to prevent the transmission of the virus to newborns at birth.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all newborns born to hepatitis B positive women be given two shots in the delivery room – the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine (5 mcg dose) and one dose of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG, 0.5 mL dose). If a woman knows that she is infected, it is important that she tell her doctor to have these two drugs available when she is ready to deliver. These two shots must be given at separate injection sites, i.e. different limbs. When administered correctly within the first 12 hours of life, a newborn has a 95% chance of being protected against a lifelong hepatitis B infection. The infant will need to complete the hepatitis B vaccine according to schedule as part of a 3 or 4 dose series. CDC recommends follow up testing to confirm immunity or protection against HBV at 9 months or at the baby’s 1 year checkup.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine for ALL babies, though it is especially important for a baby born to a woman with hepatitis B to receive the first dose of the vaccine as soon as possible, within 24 hours. HBIG may not be available in all countries or may be cost prohibitive. The hepatitis B vaccine series may be completed with the remaining monovalent  (single) injections of the HBV vaccine, or may be completed as part of a combination vaccine series.

In developing countries combination vaccines such as the pentavalent vaccine are often given to babies. The first dose of the pentavalent vaccine (which includes hepatitis B vaccine) is given at 6 weeks of age, and the 2nd and 3rd doses are given at 10 and 14 weeks of age. Waiting for the first dose at 6 weeks is too late for babies born to mothers living with chronic hepatitis, though the pentavalent vaccine should never be used as the birth dose or before 6 weeks. Women who know they have hepatitis B should talk to their doctor about ensuring that a birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine is available for their baby at birth.

There is no second chance!  It is vitally important that we protect all newborns from hepatitis B!

Also, all infected pregnant women need to learn more about their hepatitis B infection from a liver specialist or a doctor with experience treating patients with chronic hepatitis B. It is recommended that pregnant women have their hepatitis B monitored throughout their pregnancy, to check the health of their liver and to see if they need treatment. For HBeAg positive women with high hepatitis B viral loads, taking FDA-approved antivirals during the last trimester can reduce the amount of virus in the blood and help prevent the chance of transmission to the newborn. Once an infected woman gives birth, it is important that she routinely see her doctor to keep monitoring her hepatitis B infection. Keeping mothers healthy allows them to better take care of their families!

For more information, or if you live in the U.S. and need help with hepatitis B infection during pregnancy, please visit the Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program to find a coordinator near you. If you are outside of the U.S., you may consider visiting the World Hepatitis Alliance to find if there are organizations in your country that can ensure your baby starts with a birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.

Visit our website for additional information!

#StigmaStops: Can We End Hepatitis B Discrimination

Around the world, millions of people with chronic hepatitis B face wrenching discrimination that limits their dreams, education, careers, income and personal relationships.

Discrimination is unethical, unnecessary and a violation of human rights. Hepatitis B is simply not transmitted through casual contact. The stigma that persists is based on ignorance and it impacts millions around the world daily. The United Nations created Zero Discrimination Day to highlight the negative impact of discrimination and promote tolerance, compassion and peace. Many hepatitis activist organizations, including the Hepatitis B Foundation, used this commemorative day to draw attention to global hepatitis B discrimination. Even though Zero Discrimination Day was on March 1, we still need to recognize the importance of stopping hepatitis B discrimination.

Every day is zero discrimination day, and ending discrimination starts with each of us working in any way we can in our communities to end this stigma.

No one is to blame for hepatitis B, and people who have hepatitis B deserve the same opportunities to live fulfilling lives – at work, at home and in the community.  . There is a safe and effective vaccine that prevents hepatitis B infection. When people are protected, there is no reason to fear that healthcare workers or hotel maids will spread this infection. Even without vaccination hepatitis B transmission can be avoided with simple prevention measures. Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually.

People who have hepatitis B are part of our global community. They are our mothers, brothers, doctors, teachers, spouses and friends. To learn about how the fear of discrimination affects people who have hepatitis B, check out some of our #justB patient stories. Jin’s story tells us how a vibrant young woman handles her fear, and Carolyn’s story shows us the devastating consequences of hiding a hepatitis B diagnosis.

It is morally reprehensible that given the tools and knowledge we have that discrimination against people who have hepatitis B should continue today. So we ask you to help us end this discrimination.

One way you can fight hepatitis B discrimination is by joining the World Health Alliance in their #StigmaStops awareness campaign. It is a year-long campaign that highlights the stigma and discrimination associated with hepatitis around the world. #StigmaStops provides people living with hepatitis a platform to strengthen their voice and speak about the stigma and its impact as well as dispel myths and misconceptions of hepatitis B. Another way to help is to talk about hepatitis B – with your colleagues, friends and family members. The more we talk openly about hepatitis B, the less it will be stigmatized. And feel free to share our #justB videos – they can be a great conversation starter!

Read our previous blogs about employment discrimination and more stories about hepatitis B discrimination.