Hepatitis B infection is found worldwide but it is more endemic in countries like Asia and Africa. Hepatitis B is caused by a DNA virus that affects the liver. Most of the time people have no symptoms during the initial phase and around 50% of people can develop Jaundice, low-grade fever, vomiting, abdominal pain. After acute phase chronic infection with Hepatitis B virus occurs in 5 to 10% of adults and in 70 to 90% of infants.
How does Hepatitis B transmission & infection happen?
The virus is transmitted by exposure to infectious blood products or body secretions.
Infection at the time of birth is the most frequent method by which Hepatitis B is acquired in the area where the disease is common.
It is sexually transmitted by saliva, vaginal secretions and semen.
The hepatitis B virus cannot be spread by holding hands, hugging, sharing eating utensils.
Hepatitis B & its effect on pregnancy:
Hepatitis B infection during pregnancy does not have any teratogenic effects on fetus, but there is higher incidence of low birth weight and prematurity with hepatitis B infection during pregnancy.
Mother can pass the virus to baby at the time of delivery.
The neonatal transmission can be prevented by screening during antenatal period and infants of HBS antigen positive mothers are given hepatitis B vaccine and immunoglobulin very soon after birth. Breast feeding is safe as long as infant is having vaccination.
Hepatitis B Treatment during pregnancy:
If your antenatal blood test shows you have hepatitis B, you should be referred to a specialist doctor.
Your doctor or nurse will check the level of hepatitis B in your blood, which is called the viral load. If your viral load is high, you may be offered treatment with a medication called tenofovir (Viread).
Treatment may start in the third trimester of your pregnancy, depending on how high your viral load is. Treatment should continue for four weeks to 12 weeks after you give birth. Your doctor may advise you to take this medication longer if it will benefit your health.
If your viral load is lower, your doctor will probably say you don’t need to start treatment at this time.
There are many different medications for hepatitis B, and some are known or thought to be unsafe during pregnancy. If you already know you have hepatitis B, this is one reason why it’s ideal to talk to your doctor before you try for a baby.
If you are already having treatment when you become pregnant, see your doctor, because she may need to change your medication.
If you have hepatitis B during pregnancy, the infection can flare up again after you’ve had your baby.