Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. It is passed from person to person in body fluids, such as blood, semen or vaginal fluids
According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), when a person becomes infected, the Hepatitis B virus can stay in the person’s body for the rest of his or her life and cause serious liver problems.
A hepatitis B infection should not cause any problems for you or your unborn baby during your pregnancy but the virus can be passed on to your newborn baby during delivery. When babies become infected with Hepatitis B, they have a 90% chance of developing a lifelong, chronic infection. According to CDC, as many as 1 in 4 people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious health problems which include liver damage, liver disease, and liver cancer.
It is important therefore for a pregnant woman to find out if she has the disease because according to Baby Center, she may likely to:
- Have premature birth
- Have low birth weight
- Develop gestational diabetes
- Experience heavy bleeding during late pregnancy
Attending antenatal is crucial because doctors conduct a series of blood tests that check the level of hepatitis B virus in your blood. If the virus is detected, then you will be referred to further tests and treatment.
Since it is possible for a woman with hepatitis B to pass the virus to her baby at birth, it is crucial for the woman to give birth at a health facility with the help of a skilled birth attendant because doctors can prevent a baby from getting hepatitis B by giving them 2 shots within 12 hours of birth. The first dose is that of the Hepatitis B vaccine and the other shot is called Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG). HBIG is a medicine that gives a baby’s body a “boost” or extra help to fight the virus as soon as he or she is born. The HBIG shot is only given to babies of mothers who have Hepatitis B.
One important thing to note is that it is safe to breastfeed your baby as long as he/ she is having the vaccinations.
Source: Center for Disease Control, Baby Center and Hepatitis B Foundation