Hepatitis C Transmission & Babies: Pregnancy & Risks
If you are in your childbearing years and have hepatitis C, this information can help you. There is a growing number in a group of babies who are infected with the hepatitis C virus. The numbers are still small, and so are they. There are a couple of ways that hepatitis C transmission happens with babies. With new testing and treatment options, doctors try to get them on treatment so they can get cured before they start school. Keeping an eye on the big picture of diagnosis, testing, and treatment always helps. Let’s look at some of the facts about hepatitis C in babies.
Risks for mother-child hepatitis C transmission
Being pregnant with hep C can put a mother and child both at risk. If a woman has hepatitis C, she should avoid getting pregnant until after treatment. Using birth control methods can help her to have a healthy and happy pregnancy after she is rid of the virus. This also helps to prevent her from passing the virus on to her newborn. If you are pregnant and reading this, don’t stress out. Read on.
If a mom is pregnant while she has hep C, she will test positive for the antibody. In fact, most babies born to moms with hepatitis C do NOT have the virus. They just carry the antibodies for the first year or so of life. They are tested at birth for hep C. As they get near their 2nd birthday, they can be retested. If the antibody is present at about 18 months, more tests will be done to confirm if the child has the virus.
Low transmission risks mean babies can still get hepatitis C
Even though the risk of transmission at birth is low, it can be passed to the newborn. Statistics show that a lot depends upon the viral load of the mom, and also her overall health. In addition, if a woman is coinfected with hepatitic C and HIV there is a higher risk of transmission. Most doctors will not perform a C section on women who have hepatitis C unless it is an emergency.
Sometimes children will clear the virus on their own. Because the virus is slow to develop, it may not have enough time to damage the liver until they are older. I’ve known elementary age kiddos who have successfully treated for the hepatitis C virus. In those cases, it was because the little ones had become sick and the viral load was growing rapidly. If there is a reason to suspect that liver disease is accelerating, the child’s medical team can approve the newer treatments that are interferon free. In the past, even the little ones had to have a weekly injection for several months.
Additional transmission risks
Another cause of hepatitis C transmission in babies is blood transfusion. If a little one is born with any illness requiring a blood transfusion, or that requires needle sticks, there is a risk. With the universal precautions and tight screening of blood, it is very rare for children to get hepatitis C this way.
If you could possibly become pregnant, use birth control. If you have already become pregnant, be sure and talk with your doctor. Eat a healthy diet and try to get plenty of exercise. The chances of having a healthy baby are still high and there are great treatment options available. Carrying a little one can be a good motivation to begin to make healthy lifestyle changes.