Hepatitis B, a viral infection that affects the liver
is especially a concern during pregnancy because it
can be passed to the newborn at delivery. Hepatitis
B can also be transmitted to the fetus if the pregnant
lady is infected. Hepatitis B in pregnancy is linked
to preterm delivery to some extent.
Facts on Hepatitis B
• Hepatitis B is not a teratogen as it doesn't
cause congenital abnormalities but an infected baby
may develop life-long liver complications such as
cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
• The newborn is more likely to acquire hepatitis
B and become a chronic carrier if the mother acquires
the infection at the later part of her pregnancy.
• Though recovery is fast, one in ten persons
can become carriers for life. A carrier develops long
term liver damage.
• Sadly, infected persons show no symptoms or
at the most exhibit flu-like symptoms, vomiting, fatigue,
loss of appetite and stomach pain which eventually
go away without treatment. Specific symptom includes
jaundice which doesn't always manifest.
• In most people acute hepatitis infection lasts
a few months. The virus leaves the body but the antibodies
• Women at highest risk including those who
work in the healthcare line or those who have multiple
partners should be vaccinated before or even during
• Some countries are considered high-risk, including
Asia, Africa, Middle East and Far East. Frequent travelers
to these places should be vaccinated
• In some countries all hospital born newborns
are mandatorily inoculated before being discharged
• A preventive vaccine is widely available and
is safe, even during pregnancy
• Transmission occurs in several ways:
1. From a carrier to her newborn during delivery
2. From an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy
3. Unprotected sexual intercourse with a carrier (inclusive
of contact with the contaminated saliva, semen)
4. Living with a carrier
5. Direct contact with the blood of an infected party
e.g. drug users who share needles, equipment used
during tattooing, ear piercing etc, blood transfusion.
What if the Mother is infected
with Hepatitis B?
• A routine blood screening test is usually
performed during a woman's first prenatal visit to
check for hepatitis B infection or immunity. A check
can also be done during the preconception visit.
If you are not immune vaccination is necessary. The
hepatitis vaccine is in 3 doses and the last is given
6 months after the first. Pregnancy should be postponed
for at least 6 months. However if you do accidentally
become pregnant in these 6 months your pregnancy is
not at risk.
• If maternal blood test confirms the mother
to be a carrier, the baby's pediatrician has to be
informed so that proper treatment following birth
can be carried out.
• At delivery the newborn will be thoroughly
washed to remove all traces of maternal blood and
other fluids promptly, and baby will be inoculated
with the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin
for protection within 12 hours of birth.
• Following the treatment at birth, the newborn
will be given further shots between one and six months
with the vaccine and immunoglobulin which is a serum
made from the live virus.
• Several months after the last shot, baby will
be tested to ensure enough antibodies are being made.
Babies who test positive do not encounter liver problems
• After delivery, the mother will be assessed
and advised on managing or treating her own infection.
• Hepatitis B is not passed through breast milk
and breastfeeding is considered safe. The mother will
not be separated from her baby or discouraged from