Hepatitis During Pregnancy: Types, Causes, And Treatment

Hepatitis During Pregnancy

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Hepatitis during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a vulnerable time for you. You are prone to several ailments; some of them are minor while some others major. It is common to contract minor problems and not difficult to get rid of them. But if the condition is major such as hepatitis, then it is a cause for concern.

That is the reason, your medical consultant advises you to undergo several tests after you conceive. Hepatitis is one such disease you need to be careful about. Here, MomJunction explains about each type of hepatitis, why that is caused, and how you can get treated for it.

Hepatitis A during pregnancy:

Hepatitis A infects the liver, and the condition becomes severe if left untreated. Immunization is a way to protect yourself from the contagious hepatitis A virus (HAV).

What causes hepatitis A?

The HAV virus usually spreads via the fecal-oral route, direct contact or through ingestion of contaminated water or food. It is primarily caused due to:

  • Eating contaminated food handled by an infected person
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Having sexual relationship with an infected person
  • Consuming raw shellfish not washed properly

How do you identify hepatitis A?

Some of the observable symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Enlarged liver
  • Abnormal bowel movement
  • Poor appetite
  • Sudden weight loss

[ Read: Infections During Pregnancy ]

Diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis A:

If you have had the symptoms of hepatitis A, then your medical practitioner will advise you to undergo a blood test to check the presence of the virus. However, the blood test can detect the HAV only after your body is exposed to the infection for about two to five weeks. In the early stage, the blood test shows no results.

If you are exposed to HAV conditions, then you will be administered immune gamma globulin (IG). The agent is safe, and proactively helps prevent the acute hepatitis infection.

Preventing the infection:

Though there is no sufficient evidence to prove that hepatitis vaccination is safe during pregnancy, that is the best to prevent the virus. If you are travelling to countries where there is a high incidence of the disease, your doctor will advise you to take the vaccination (1).

Warnings about hepatitis A vaccine during pregnancy:

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, hepatitis A vaccination falls under pregnancy category C, which means that there are no adequate studies to prove their safety and risk can’t be ruled out.

Hepatitis B during pregnancy:

Hepatitis B is also termed as serum hepatitis and the long-term liver infection can degrade your health condition. If you are contaminated with the hepatitis B virus during the pregnancy phase, it might pass on to your baby (2).

What causes hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is passed on through bodily fluids like blood and semen. It can happen in the following cases:

  • If you are a healthcare professional and get infected by a carrier
  • Using needles that are not sterilized
  • Having sexual relation with an infected person
  • Using razors that are used by a carrier and may have a trace of blood
  • If you are getting blood transfusions or donating blood frequently, and the equipment is not sterilized

How do you identify hepatitis B?

On getting infected with hepatitis B, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and pain in joints
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Extreme dehydration and lack of appetite

There may be no symptoms if the infection is mild. So, it is possible that you may not know you are infected, but carry the virus.

Risk factors:

When you are pregnant, being infected with this disease could have the following risk factors:

  • Though there are no records of deformities in newborn, there are risks of premature birth
  • Low birth weight of the baby
  • In certain cases, if left untreated, it can cause miscarriage

Diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B:

Your gynaecologist usually suggests you to undergo routine medical examination in the first trimester, or early in the second trimester to check for the presence of hepatitis B.

  • If you test negative for the infection, and already have the antibody, then you are fine.
  • However, if you test positive, then you will be further tested for complications, especially liver related problems.

Most of the pregnant mothers are given the antibodies through hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG).

Preventing the spread of the infection:

If you have the infection, there are risks of transmitting the same to your baby. The following actions will ensure the safety of your newborn:

  • Administering hepatitis B immunoglobulin right after birth.
  • The first shot of vaccine must be given within 12 hours of birth.
  • Successive doses of vaccine to be given at the age of one month and six months. (3)

[ Read: Risks Of Alcohol During Pregnancy ]

Hepatitis C during pregnancy:

Hepatitis C usually infects the liver and leads to permanent liver damage, and in many cases, death.

What causes hepatitis C?

The virus spreads predominantly from body fluids and people who have undergone blood transfusion or came in contact with shared needles.

How do you identify hepatitis C?

Some of the common symptoms of hepatitis C during pregnancy include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Medication and prevention:

If the hepatitis C infection is detected at an early stage, the doctor may prescribe certain vaccinations and medications to prevent the spread of the infection to your baby, the chances of which are around 5% (4).

Hepatitis E during pregnancy:

Hepatitis E is a waterborne ailment that majorly occurs in the areas with poor sanitation.

What causes hepatitis E?

Here are some reasons why hepatitis E happens in pregnancy.

  • Consumption of contaminated food or drink
  • Ingestion of fecal matter
  • Poor sanitation
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Overuse of medications
  • Drugs and chemicals
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Fatty liver
  • Autoimmune disease

[ Read: Common Problems During Pregnancy ]

How do you identify hepatitis E?

You may not know about hepatitis C in the initial stage of the ailment and symptoms may not show until the liver gets damaged. However, once the symptoms become apparent, they are severe. Here are some prominent symptoms of the infection.

  • Dark urine
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Pale-colored stool
  • Fever or flu
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Liver inefficiency
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin

Treatment:

There is no specific cure or medical therapy for hepatitis E. The virus is self-limiting, and dies after a certain time. However, you can some measures to alleviate the problem.

  • Have ample rest. Avoid taking up tasks that require a lot of energy and are stressful. Have sufficient sleep. Having sufficient rest speeds up your recovery.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and water to mitigate the symptoms of hepatitis E. Have nutritious fruit juices to hydrate your body. Avoid consuming alcohol, as it further damages your liver.

Prevention:

Take these measures to avoid the disease:

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Avoid drinking local water, seafood, and raw vegetables
  • Avoid sharing razors, and toothbrushes (5)

[ Read: Viral Infections During Pregnancy ]

Hepatitis does not alter your pregnancy. However, in some cases, it might lead to acute fatty liver, necessitating a quick delivery so that it does not spread to the baby. You may also be vulnerable to jaundice and gallstones. Therefore, the best way to avoid the disease is to make sure that you are not in close contact with any infected person. Also, if your doctor recommends hepatitis vaccine, go for it.

Have an experience to share? Do tell us in the comment section.

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  • momjunction

    Thank you.