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Infectious Diseases

Hepatitis B and pregnancy

03/12/2004

Question:

I have been informed that I have Hepatitis B and I am pregnant.This is new to me and I am very scared.What I would like to know is what are my chances of dieing?... and in the future is there going to be a cure?

Answer:

Specific questions regarding your health should be directed to your own physician. However, I can give you some general information about hepatitis B. The CDC estimates that approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. become infected with hepatitis B every year. Of those, most will resolve the infection over time and develop protective immunity. However, up to 10% will develop a chronic or persistent form of the disease. It is important for persons infected with hepatitis B to know whether they have an infection that resolves or one that is chronic or persistent. For that 10% of people who develop the chronic or persistent form of hepatitis B, there may be slow damage to the liver over time due to the inflammation caused by having the infection. The chances for cirrhosis (scarring of the liver with some abnormal functioning) or even liver cancer are higher than someone who does not have chronic or persistent hepatitis B infection. Cirrhosis and liver cancer do not occur in everyone with chronic or persistent hepatitis B infection, but need to be monitored closely. Within the last several years, there have been some medications developed to help control the chronic or persistent infection. These medications are not curative, but have been shown to help some people. For those persons who are not infected with hepatitis B (or have evidence of having cleared the infection in the past), vaccination against this disease is available. For pregnant women, if chronic or persistent hepatitis B is present, it is important to be sure that the obstetrician-gynecologist is aware of this infection. The infection can be passed from mother to the child. However, prompt treatment at the time of birth can decrease the chance of transmitting the hepatitis from mother to child by 70-80%.

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Response by:

Stephen   Kralovic, MD Stephen Kralovic, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati