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Pregnancy and HBV: FAQ

Should I be tested for hepatitis B if I am pregnant?

Why are hepatitis B tests so important for pregnant women?

Will a hepatitis B infection affect my pregnancy?

If I am pregnant and have hepatitis B, how can I protect my baby?

Can I breastfeed my baby if I have hepatitis B?

Should I be tested for hepatitis B if I am pregnant?

Yes. ALL pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B! Testing is especially important for women who fall into high-risk groups such as health care workers, women from ethnic communities where hepatitis B is common, spouses or partners living with an infected person, etc. If you are pregnant, be sure your doctor tests you for hepatitis B before your baby is born.

Why are these tests so important for pregnant women?

If you test positive for hepatitis B and are pregnant, the virus can be passed on to your newborn baby during delivery. If your doctor is aware that you have hepatitis B, he or she can make arrangements to have the proper medications in the delivery room to prevent your baby from being infected. If the proper procedures are not followed, your baby has a 95% chance of developing chronic hepatitis B!

 Will a hepatitis B infection affect my pregnancy?

A hepatitis B infection should not cause any problems for you or your unborn baby during your pregnancy. It is important for your doctor to be aware of your hepatitis B infection so that he or she can monitor your health and so your baby can be protected from an infection after it is born.

If I am pregnant and have hepatitis B, how can I protect my baby?

If you test positive for hepatitis B, then your newborn must be given two shots immediately in the delivery room:

  • first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine
  • one dose of the Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG).

If these two medications are given correctly within the first 12 hours of life, a newborn has more than a 90% chance of being protected against a lifelong hepatitis B infection. You must make sure your baby receives the second and third dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at one and six months of age to ensure complete protection.

There is no second chance to protect your newborn baby!

Can I breastfeed my baby if I have hepatitis B?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all women with hepatitis B should be encouraged to breastfeed their newborns. Read the web linkFull Report.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risk of infection, which is minimal. In addition, since it is recommended that all infants be vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, any potential risk is further reduced.

For more information, read Hepatitis B Foundation's Recommendations for Pregnant Women and HBV

The Hepatitis B Foundation convened an expert panel to develop recommendations and easy-to-use flowchart based on existing guidelines to help providers know how to test pregnant women and what actions to take based on the results.
Chronic Hepatitis B in Pregnancy: Screening, Evaluation and Management (Part I and Part II) Published in The Female Patient, April 2012 (vol. 37): pages 22-27 and May 2012 (vol.37): pages 30-34

HBF Algorithm

 

Page last modified October 17, 2012

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