Hepatitis B is a common problem that can affect anyone in this world. While the immunity of an average human being can handle the viral infection and can treat it without any medical help, one in ten adults may retain the virus giving rise to a chronic condition. People must be alert about hepatitis B symptoms. Especially women who are expecting children soon must take the extra leap in order to make sure that they do the needful if they are carriers of the virus.
Hepatitis B has been medically proven to be more common in women of colour and in people belonging to specific ethnic backgrounds. However, it is best to make sure to go through with a blood test and make sure that you are in the clear before you take on the responsibility of raising a child. Hepatitis B in pregnancy can be a serious problem if it goes undetected, but when treated properly with the hepatitis b vaccine, the effects can be easily contained.
Things you Need to Know about Hepatitis B and Pregnancy
What is Hepatitis B?
A condition that involves the enlargement or inflammation of the liver is usually referred to as hepatitis. While there may be a number of causes behind the condition, the type of hepatitis that has viral causes is generally referred to as Hepatitis B. The viral disease is passed on from person to person through the exchange of bodily fluids like blood, semen or vaginal fluids from an infected to a healthy individual.
The immune systems of most adult human beings are well equipped to fight off a Hepatitis B infection without any additional medication. But some adults may retain the virus and continue to carry it. This is how some people may show a chronic hepatitis B problem, which is unfortunately not curable and can cause serious damage to the liver in due course. However, it can be easily contained with a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medical care to slow down the process.
One of the ways in which Hepatitis B is spread is from a pregnant mother to the child. It is best to check for any signs of the problem in your pregnancy so that you can take the right steps to prevent the condition from occurring in your child. If you are tested positive for the virus, the right Hepatitis B vaccine after birth can help your child. And if you have a high viral content in your blood, your doctor can recommend medication that can help control and contain the disease.
How does hepatitis B spread?
The hepatitis B symptoms take a long time to manifest but there are three main ways in which the virus may pass on from an infected to a healthy human being. These are as follows:
- Through unprotected sex where there is an exchange of body fluids among the people engaged in the act.
- From contact through blood where needles are shared among people, accidentally or otherwise.
- During pregnancy, from the mother to the baby.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
It is important to identify the hepatitis B symptoms is they manifest, but it may be difficult to differentiate with other signs when you are pregnant. That is why it is best to make sure that you get yourself checked during your pregnancy in order to take the right medical steps. The symptoms may be listed as follows:
- A tiredness and lethargy that may last for a period of 10 days.
- Aches and pains, other signs which are similar to the symptoms of the common flu.
- Loss of appetite and nausea.
- Excessive fatigue
- The possibility of jaundice, with the yellowing of the skin and the eyes.
Hepatitis B and Pregnancy
Most commonly hepatitis B and pregnancy are not linked as the condition usually does not affect childbirth or pregnancy. But often hepatitis B may increase the risks involved in pregnancy. Here are a few ways in which Hepatitis B in pregnancy may adversely affect you:
- Hepatitis B can increase the possibility of premature birth and miscarriage.
- The risk of gestational diabetes is increased when hepatitis B and pregnancy are conditions common to the mother.
- The risk of giving birth to a baby with a weight lower than normal is also a possibility.
- The hepatitis B virus can cause liver damage in your child in the foetal stage itself.
Some common myths about hepatitis B and pregnancy
Here are some of the misconceptions about hepatitis B in pregnancy that need to be cleared up:
- There is no cause for a caesarean delivery if the only motivation behind it is the Hepatitis B virus. While it is true that you can pass on the virus to your child, it is only during childbirth due to the mixture of body fluids that you pass it on.
- Most medical studies have said that there should be no obstruction to breastfeeding on account of the hepatitis B virus. As long as the hepatitis B vaccine is administered to your child as per schedule, he or she should not have any problem with breastfeeding.
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Here is a step by step guide to the process of treatment in case you are afraid about having hepatitis B at the time of your pregnancy:
- You must get blood tests done early on in your pregnancy to know if you are a carrier of the hepatitis B virus.
- If you are tested positive, no need to panic. Make sure to consult your doctor and then to any specialist doctors, if you are recommended to do so.
- Further tests may be necessary to check the level of hepatitis B virus in your blood. In case of low content, the Hepatitis B vaccine administered to your child will take care of things.
- In case you have a higher content of viral content, your doctor may prescribe some medication during your pregnancy to help control the condition. Tenofovir or Viread is a common choice.
- Medicines, if administered, are given from the third trimester of your pregnancy to 4-12 weeks after you give birth. Make sure you consult your doctor so that the medicines do not affect you or your baby.
- If you are tested positive for the hepatitis B virus, the hepatitis B vaccine is a must for your child after the birth.
- A high content of the virus in the mother or an extraordinarily low birth weight can also call for the antibodies or immunoglobulin against hepatitis B to be administered to the baby.
- The hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered to a child at birth, a month after the birth, two months after the birth and then a year after birth. A booster when your child is 5 years old may also be recommended.
Make sure you communicate with your doctor about your condition in details to do what is best for your baby. Hepatitis B can be easily prevented from playing an important role in your child’s life, if you can make the right choices now.