Hepatitis B in pregnancy is subject matter on women’s health that hasn’t been addressed enough in this part of the world and the education of women and everyone in general on the subject is essential for the good health of the baby inutero. Pregnant women infected with hepatitis B have a greater than 90% chance of infecting the baby and developing chronic hepatitis B if they are not adequately treated at birth. It is optimum for pregnant women to know their hepatitis B status in order to prevent passing the virus on to their newborn baby during delivery.

All pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis, including the high and low risk. It is a form of primary preventive health care that will help determine if there is a need for providing preventive measures to baby during delivery, consequently preventing chronic hepatitis and liver disorder.

Hepatitis is the inflammation and infection of the liver. It destroys the liver cells diminishing and affecting the function. It results from several causes such as bacterial, viral, fungi. Etc. liver is the largest organ of the body which roles include detoxification, digestion, metabolism, immune function, regulates blood clotting. Etc. The most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C which is caused by hepatitis virus.

This article will be majorly on hepatitis B in pregnancy. Pregnancy is the period of carrying a developing offspring by a woman. Hepatitis B is a viral infection. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus . This  virus can stay in the body for the rest of his or her life and cause serious liver problems when a person is infected. It can occur in the acute stage and proceed to the chronic stage with the exhibition of symptoms like fever, body malaise, jaundice, nausea, abdominal pain, poor appetite, dark urine e t c.

Also, Hepatitis B can be spread through contact with infected blood or bodily fluid, sexual intercourse with an infected person and childbirth

Why should hepatitis B in pregnancy be a concern?

Hepatitis b can spread to the fetus inutero during delivery either via vaginal or caesarian section. When a baby gets infected with hepatitis B, they have a higher percentage of developing chronic hepatitis B, chronic liver disease, and liver cancer.

Can a baby be prevented from having hepatitis B?

Yes. Babies born by mother with hepatitis b can be prevented from contacting it through:

  • Early detection through screening during pregnancy: this is very important; laboratory investigations during pregnancy cannot be overemphasized as it serves as ways of preventing illness and complication in both mothers and babies. Knowing hepatitis status will help the family a long way.
  • Vaccination

Babies must get 1 shot of immunization and injection against hepatitis after birth. This is the most effective and works best within the first 12 hours of delivery to prevent babies from contracting hepatitis B from mothers. The first shot is the routine hepatitis vaccine and the other is hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG). The second dose of the hepatitis vaccine should be given within the age of 1-2 months and third dose at 6months.

Hepatitis b immunoglobulin (HBIG) is an injection that contains antibodies that boosts and helps to fight against hepatitis virus from mother to child after delivery.

However, hepatitis test should be done for babies between 12-15 months

Can a mother with hepatitis B breastfeed?

Yes, breast feeding should not be delayed to complete immunization. Breast milk contains constituents of antibodies to fight against infection and promotes optimal growth and development; therefore babies should be breastfed as required. However, when experiencing cracked nipples, breastfeeding should be stopped till it heals.

Precaution to be taken by mother

  • Covering and care of sores or wound
  • Do not chew food for your baby.
  • Ensure complete vaccination.

In conclusion, hepatitis B is a viral infection that can be asymptomatic at the acute stage and live in the body for several years. Adoption of routine checkups, early antenatal booking, and routine investigations during pregnancy will reduce the complications and prevent mother to child transmission.

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