Hepatitis is a type of disease that can cause severe harm to your liver, and if you are pregnant, you can pass it to your newborn.
The condition can be caused by either a viral cause or a noninfectious cause. Viral hepatitis remains the primary cause of liver inflammation and can affect all populations globally, including pregnant mothers. There are five identified causes of viral hepatitis. They include hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Treatments, effects on the pregnancy, vertical transmission risk, degree of liver inflammation and prevention vary depending on the type of hepatitis an individual has. In this guide, you will learn how different hepatitis types affect gestation in pregnant mothers, prevention and life after birth for both the mothers and the newborns.
Hepatitis A (HAV)
If a pregnant female contracts HAV, chances are high that her unborn child is not affected. This is because the chances of intra-utero transmissions of HAV are minimal. However, perinatal transmission could occur. The infection could cause higher risk of preterm labor, which is more likely if the mother contracted the disease during the second or third trimester. Other conditions associated with HAV in pregnant women include the following:
- Placental abruptions
- Premature uterine contractions
- Premature rupture of membranes
After birth, nursing mothers can continue to breastfeed their babies while they have the infection. However, if they become very ill, they should stop breastfeeding until they recover. Infected mothers may be required to take their newborns for immune globulin shots for protection against the virus. They are also advised to observe proper hygiene and hand washing as HAV is usually spread through contact with the feces of an infected person.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
HBV is a vaccine-preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. The condition is spread when semen, blood or other body fluid from a person with the infection enters the body of someone without the disease. The disease is proven to have a high vertical transmission rate resulting in fetal and neonatal hepatitis conditions.
Pregnant women exposed to HBV should be given an HBV immunoglobulin injection within 72 hours of exposure followed by an HBV vaccine, ideally within seven days. A second shot should be administered one month later and the third six months after that.
Mothers who carry the infection can spread it to their babies before, during or after vaginal or C-section delivery. After birth, the mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies normally. However, health professionals recommended that the baby breastfeeds only after administration of HBIG 12 hours after delivery. If proper medication is not administered, infected newborns are likely to become carriers, increasing their chance of dying of liver cancer or severe liver disease.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis C is a liver condition caused by HCV, a virus transmitted through contact with contaminated blood. This can occur through sharing needles or sharp objects that come into contact with blood. Infected mothers can transmit the disease to their babies at birth. However, they can still breastfeed their babies without putting them at risk.
Mothers with cirrhosis resulting from advanced HCV are more likely to experience complications at birth and during gestation. These complications can include the following:
- Preterm birth
- Need for cesarean delivery
- Low birth weight
Currently, there are no treatments for HCV. The only method to avoid the disease is staying away from behaviors that can expose you. Pregnant women with the virus will require special care to ensure that they and their babies are safe. Mothers should also take their children for screening after they are 18 months old.
Hepatitis D (HDV)
Hepatitis D is a liver inflammation caused by the HDV virus, replicating through HBV. This means that a person cannot contract HDV virus in the absence of HBV. Vaccination against HBV is the only way to prevent an HDV infection. Pregnant mothers who are not immune to HBV are at high risk of contracting HDV, so they should be screened.
The disease is usually spread similarly to HBV; parenteral mode is the primary method of transmission, and vertical transmission during pregnancy is rare. Treatment of the disease is also similar to treating HBV due to their similarities in coinfection rates.
Hepatitis E (HEV)
HEV is a liver condition caused by poor hygiene preventable by drinking safe water, handling food properly and observing proper hygiene. HEV infection during gestation is more dangerous as it is associated with severe conditions, leading to fulminant hepatic failure and maternal death. Currently, there is no approved FDA treatment for HEV.
After birth, it is relatively safe for women with HEV to breastfeed. However, women with acute hepatic disease are advised not to breastfeed as they can spread the disease to the newborns through contaminated breast milk.
Viral hepatitis is the primary cause of jaundice in pregnant females, and the best way to address it in gestation is by trying to avoid it. While not all variants are preventable, there are safe vaccines for variants A and B. There is also an effective cure for most types of variant HCV. If you become hepatic during your pregnancy, the best thing would be to talk to your doctor to avoid gestational and fetal complications.