Hepatitis C and Pregnancy
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is an infection that targets the liver. Gradually the infection in the liver multiples, leading to liver damage in some patients. However, many people infected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can continue their daily routines without facing major health complications but may remain chronic carriers of the infection. This may lead to bouts of concern for women thinking of getting pregnant or who are pregnant when they find out they have hepatitis C. Read on to find out how hepatitis C affects pregnancy and if this infection can infect your child.
HCV Infection in Pregnancy
Although little data on HCV infection in pregnancy exists, the data available suggests that there is no increase risk of congenital malformation, stillbirth or fetal distress. Pregnant women with HCV compared to other moms-to-be face no greater risk of obstetric or perinatal complications.
Risk of Transmission
The risk of transmission from an infected mother to her baby varies from zero to 36 percent, with an average risk of five percent. This risk increases up to 44 percent if the mother is infected with HIV.
There is no guaranteed method of preventing transmission of HCV from the mother to her baby. However, a few retrospective studies have shown that following a caesarian section the risk of transmission lowers. But, healthy infected pregnant women can still deliver vaginally without increasing the general risk (of 5 percent) for transmission.
If you're wondering if you should breastfeed while infected, you should consult your doctor. Although no report showing an increase in the risk of transmission from mother to baby through breastfeeding exists, the safety of breastfeeding when infected still needs to be further investigated.
Symptoms and Check-ups
If you're pregnant with hepatitis you will need to check in regularly with a liver test. Pregnant women may develop certain symptoms including gallstones and elevated enzymes. These symptoms may, but not always, be a result of her HCV infection. It's important to notify your doctor and liver specialist about all the symptoms you experience before starting or stopping your usual medications.
If you have hepatitis C and find out you're pregnant, immediately make an appointment with your doctor. Interferon therapy for hepatitis C should be discontinued because the effects on the fetus are largely unknown.