Hepatitis B during Pregnancy

by | June 23, 2020

It is highly contagious for the child to get hepatitis B at birth, so they try to detect hepatitis B cases before giving birth so that medicines can be given and thus protect the child from also being infected.

Liver inflammation can be caused by several different viruses. In connection with pregnancy, attention should be paid to infection with the virus hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can in some cases develop into a very serious disease, but also progress without symptoms. After the infection with the virus, about 10% will be infected with hepatitis B virus for the rest of their lives, which can cause liver damage in the long term. However, this figure is much higher if you become infected at birth, then around 90% become chronic carriers, which is why you try to detect all hepatitis B cases in pregnant women so protective medications can be given to the baby.

Hepatitis B during Pregnancy

Special risks for pregnant women

Hepatitis B is an infectious virus, and infects through blood contact, sexual contact and drug injection, among others. At a birth where the pregnant woman is a carrier of hepatitis B, the risk is extra large, almost all are infected at birth and 90% of the children who get the infection then also become chronic carriers. Carrying the infection chronically, in turn, increases the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How do you check if a pregnant woman is a carrier of hepatitis B?

Blood tests can show if you have hepatitis B. You can take different types of hepatitis B, which can show if the disease is chronic or acute. Traces of the constituents of the virus are measured in the blood. The blood test should be taken either before pregnancy or at the first doctor’s visit during pregnancy. If the blood test is positive, it means that you are the carrier of hepatitis B.

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All pregnant women in Sweden are tested for hepatitis B, which is included in a regulation created by the National Board of Health and Welfare.

Treatment

If a pregnant woman lives with a person who is hepatitis B-infected, or is otherwise at a greater risk of contracting the disease, it should preferably be vaccinated before pregnancy.

If the hepatitis B infection is known or detected during pregnancy, then the woman cannot be treated until after the pregnancy is completed. However, various measures can be taken to prevent infection of the child. It has been shown that vaccination directly at birth provides good protection against the infection, and sometimes additional immunoglobulin is given. Thereafter, vaccines are continued through child health care.

Today, all children are vaccinated against hepatitis B in Sweden, which is relatively new. The difference, however, is that you do not usually give the vaccination at birth, which you do if the mother is the carrier of the virus.

Follow-up

The child is followed up on the vaccine in child health care, giving follow-up syringes for complete protection. It is also usually tested to see that the child has received protection from the vaccine.