Pregnant and Have Hepatitis C? Here Are Some Things to Know
Editor's note: if you have any concerns or questions throughout your pregnancy, it is important to speak to your doctor.
Pregnancy comes with a basketful of emotions: excitement, fear, stress, joy, and more. The health and safety of your baby feel like a huge responsibility, especially while they’re growing inside your body.
Often, hepatitis C goes unnoticed until signs of liver disease start showing up in your body or your blood is tested for hepatitis C antibodies. That means some women first learn of their hepatitis C diagnosis during routine pregnancy screenings for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Routine screening for hepatitis C in pregnancy is relatively new and is now recommended due to the rising rate of hepatitis C in younger populations.1
Being pregnant and having hepatitis C
Naturally, being diagnosed with hepatitis C during pregnancy can be very scary. What does this mean for you and your baby?
Let’s answer some questions and put some fears to rest.
Is my baby going to get hepatitis C from me?
There’s a chance, but it’s a small one. The risk of transmission to your baby is anywhere from 5% to 5.8%. The risk increases if you’re also diagnosed with HIV.1,2
However, even the transmission of HIV from mother to baby has decreased significantly over the years. Getting a solid medical team around you is the key to getting the support you and your baby need.3
Is hepatitis C medication safe for me to take during pregnancy? At this time, the FDA has not approved the use of hepatitis C treatments in pregnancy.1
This can feel stressful and you may worry about passing on the virus to your baby while it’s developing. However, remember that it often takes years for hepatitis c to cause damage to the body, and that’s much longer than the time it takes to grow a baby.
Ultimately, you and your medical team will work together to find the right treatment plan (including timing) for you and your baby.
Is there anything I can do to help my baby if I have Hepatitis C?
Yes! It’s natural to feel powerless if you can’t treat hepatitis C during pregnancy. But there are things you can do to help you and your baby beyond the usual keeping active, eating healthy, and managing stress.
First, stay up-to-date on your vaccines, such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B.2
Second, make sure you get prenatal care throughout your pregnancy. Make sure to ask your provider if you need any additional screenings for STDs.2
Finally, ask for help in managing any addiction struggles.
What’s my pregnancy and delivery going to be like now?
It’s natural to worry that your plans for pregnancy and birthing will be suddenly ripped to shreds when you’re diagnosed with a health condition during pregnancy.
However, unless there are complications, there are likely no major changes needed in your birthing plan. Your provider may modify a few things in your care, such as only using external monitors and not breaking your water during labor.2
C-sections aren’t necessary unless there are other complications. Every pregnancy is different, but a hepatitis C diagnosis is unlikely to change your pregnancy and birthing plan drastically.2
When will my baby be checked for hepatitis C?
After delivery, you will talk with your medical team about the right time to begin treatment for hepatitis C. You can breastfeed your baby.
Work with a lactation consultant after delivery to help decrease the risk of cracked or bleeding nipples. Hepatitis C is not transmitted through breast milk but can be transmitted through bleeding/broken skin on the nipples.2
Your baby can be checked for hepatitis C anywhere from 2 months to over 18 months, depending on the test used. An antibodies test should not be done until your baby is older than 18 months because they can still have your antibodies in their bloodstream until then, giving the test a false positive.1
This article is meant to give you a jump start into understanding a hepatitis C diagnosis in pregnancy. Use it to ask your medical team questions and work closely with them to understand the best and safest treatment plan for you and your baby.