Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.
"Chronic hepatitis B"
Chronic infection with HBV means that you have a long-term HBV infection; your body did not get rid of the virus when you were first infected with HBV. The risk of progressing to chronic infection is age dependent (i.e., 2% to 6% of people over aged 5 years; 30% of children aged 1-5 years; and up to 90% of infants). People with chronic infection can infect others and are at increased risk of serious liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer. In the United States, an estimated 1.25million people are chronically infected with HBV. If you are pregnant, should you worry about hepatitis B?Yes, you should get a blood test to check for HBV infection early in your pregnancy. This test is called hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). If you test HBsAg-negative early in pregnancy, but continue behaviors that put you at risk for HBV infection (e.g., multiple sex partners, injection drug use), you should be retested for HBsAg close to delivery. If your HBsAg test is positive, this means you are infected with HBV and can give the virus to your baby. Babies who get HBV at birth might develop chronic HBV infection that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. If your blood test is positive, your baby should receive the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine, along with another shot, hepatitis B immune globulin (called HBIG), at birth. The second dose of vaccine should be given at aged 1-2 months and the third dose at aged 6 months (but not before aged 24 weeks).
These are good questions to ask your doctor.
1. Has my blood been tested for hepatitis B virus?
2. Do I need hepatitis B vaccine?
3. Will you make sure that my baby gets hepatitis B vaccine at birth?
Ask your doctor to make sure your baby gets a shot called HBIG and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth. Once your baby has this shot, it is safe to breastfeed your baby. But it is also important to make sure your baby completes all the hepatitis B vaccine doses, and is tested to make sure he or she is protected.
Most newborns who become infected with hepatitis B virus do not get sick at first, but they have a 90% chance of developing lifelong infection. If your child gets infected, he or she can develop serious liver damage and might get liver cancer later in life. But there is good news! Hepatitis B is preventable with a very safe and effective vaccine. You can protect your baby for life by making sure he or she vaccinated beginning at birth.
Neither pregnancy nor breastfeeding should be considered a contraindication to vaccination of women. On the basis of limited experience, there is no apparent risk of adverse effects to developing fetuses when hepatitis B vaccine is administered to pregnant women. The vaccine contains noninfectious HBsAg particles and should cause no risk to the fetus. HBV infection affecting a pregnant woman might result in severe disease for the mother and chronic HBV infection for the newborn.