Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver caused by hepatitis B virus. It can cause liver cirrhosis, failure or cancer if not treated. In majority (90-95%) of the cases, acute infection usually clears off by itself due to the immunity of the body and cannot occur again. Some people cannot clear the infection and become carriers i.e. they have very mild symptoms but can transfer the infection to other people via sexual contact or exchange of blood or body fluids.
Signs of Acute Liver Infection
Fever ( flu like symptoms)
It is detected by a blood test which can determine whether infection is acute, chronic or in carrier state. Viral load and activity of the virus are also determined by blood tests.
Mode of Spread of Hepatitis
Mother to child
Contaminated blood transfusion
Needle stick injury in healthcare providers
Sharing razors, toothbrush or any other personal item in contact with body fluids
Contaminated needle in body piercing, tattoo or in beauty industry
Pregnancy and Hepatitis B – Do’s and Dont’s
All pregnant women need to be screened for hepatitis B in the first trimester as they can transfer the virus to the baby at the time of birth.
If found positive various other blood investigations are perfomed to evaluate the stage and load of disease
No routine vaccination can be done in pregnancy for hepatitis
But if patient is high risk then can be vaccinated as vaccination is safe in pregnancy
In some cases, antiviral therapy can be given to the mother if her HBeAg is positive or viral load is high to prevent transmission to the baby in uterus after carefully calculating the risks and benefits of therapy with a super specialist. This is usually given in the third trimester.
Vaginal delivery has an increased risk of transmission to the baby as it comes in contact with the body fluids of mother. Caesarean done before labour and rupture of membranes can decrease transmission of virus to baby.
It is recommended that babies of positive mothers get the immunoglobulin shot and hepatitis B vaccine( active and passive immunisation) within 12 hours of birth
Hepatitis vaccine usually has 3 or 4 shots which should be completed and later a blood test can tell whether baby is infected or not.
Hepatitis B is not spread by:
Breastfeeding– you can feed your baby if you are not on antiviral therapy and infant has received immune prophylaxis
Cooking and eating- it is not spread by sharing utensils or eating together
Hugging and kissing- you can easily cuddle your baby
Prevention recommended for Hepatitis:
Get all members of family tested and vaccinated. Do not share personal items with body fluids on them. Conclusion is that each and every woman should be tested for hepatitis B. Identification is the most effective way to prevent transmission.