Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

Hepatitis B Prevention and Pregnancy
Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases
National Center for Infectious Diseases

July 1, 1994

Table of Contents


What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver caused by hepatitis B virus, or HBV. All people, no matter how old they are or where they live, may be at risk for hepatitis B.

HBV attacks and destroys the liver, which is such an important organ that you cannot live without it.

Hepatitis B may cause


Why is hepatitis B a problem for pregnant women and their babies?

Pregnant women may have HBV in their blood without knowing it and can pass it on to their babies at birth. Many of these babies develop lifelong HBV infections and can pass the virus on to others throughout their lives. At first, babies may not look or feel sick, but as they grow up, they may have liver damage. About 25% of babies who develop lifelong HBV infections die of liver disease or liver cancer.


How can you get hepatitis B?

HBV is spread from person to person by direct contact with infected blood or body fluids. Even small amounts of infected blood can cause infection.

HBV infection can be spread by

You are at increased risk for hepatitis B if


If you feel healthy, can you still have hepatitis B?

Some people who have hepatitis B have no symptoms and may not know they are infected. Others who are infected with HBV never fully recover and carry the virus in their blood for the rest of their lives. These people are known as carriers, and they can infect other household and sexual contacts throughout their lives.


How do you find out if you have hepatitis B?

Get a blood test at your clinic or doctor's office. If the test is positive, the doctor or nurse will tell you how to take care of yourself and how to prevent infecting your baby and others.


How do you protect your baby if your hepatitis B blood test is positive?

A safe vaccine has been used since 1982 to prevent hepatitis B. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots. If you have HBV infection, your baby will get the first shot within 12 hours of birth, along with another shot, hepatitis B immune globulin. The next two shots of hepatitis B vaccine will be given along with other baby shots. All other members of your household should get a blood test for hepatitis B. If the blood test is negative, hepatitis B vaccine should be given to the other household members.


Do you need to protect your baby if the hepatitis B blood test is negative?

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants to protect them from becoming infected with HBV. If your blood test for hepatitis B is negative, your baby will still receive the hepatitis B vaccine series with other baby shots, but will not need a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin. The baby may get the first shot either before leaving the hospital or with the first baby shots at the doctor's office or clinic. Ask your doctor or nurse when the next shots need to be given.


Protect Your Baby Against Hepatitis B


For more information on hepatitis B and pregnancy

Contact your local health department or call the CDC Hepatitis Hotline (404) 332-4555. Hepatitis Branch Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.


Point of Contact for this Document:

To request a copy of this document or for questions concerning this document, please contact the person or office listed below. If requesting a document, please specify the complete name of the document as well as the address to which you would like it mailed. Note that if a name is listed with the address below, you may wish to contact this person via CDC WONDER/PC e-mail.

DIVISION OF VIRAL & RICKETTSIAL DISEASES
CDC (NCID) John O'Connor
1600 Clifton Rd. NE MS(A-30)
Atlanta, GA 30333




This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:
http://www.thebody.com/content/art17088.html

General Disclaimer: TheBody.com is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through TheBody.com should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.