Hepatitis B (HBV)

Illustration of the  anatomy of the biliary system

What is hepatitis B (HBV)?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Five main types of the hepatitis virus have been identified. The most common type that occurs in pregnancy is hepatitis B (HBV). This type of hepatitis spreads mainly through contaminated blood and blood products, sexual contact, and contaminated intravenous (IV) needles. Although HBV resolves in most people, about 10 percent will have chronic HBV. Hepatitis B virus can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Infected pregnant women can transmit the virus to the fetus during pregnancy and at delivery. The later in pregnancy a mother contracts the virus, the greater the chance for infection in her baby.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

The symptoms of HBV include jaundice (yellowing of skin, eyes, and mucous membranes), fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, intermittent nausea, and vomiting. A blood test for hepatitis B is part of routine prenatal testing.

Treatment for hepatitis B:

Specific treatment for hepatitis B will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your overall health and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

HBV positive mothers may receive a drug called hepatitis B immune globulin. Infants of HBV positive mothers should receive hepatitis B immune globulin and the hepatitis B vaccine in the first 12 hours of birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all babies complete the hepatitis B vaccine series by 6 to 18 months of age to be fully protected against hepatitis B infection.

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