For most women, hepatitis C is diagnosed when they are pregnant – or when they visit a doctor for a checkup once they have decided to try to get pregnant. Hepatitis C can be a scary diagnosis, but it won’t stop you from living a long life – and it won’t stop you from having a healthy baby.
How Does Hepatitis C Affect a Fetus?
The first thing that most responsible women want to know is how hepatitis C will affect their unborn baby. The chance that you will transmit this disease to your unborn baby ranges from zero to thirty six percent. The average risk of transmission is just five percent.
The risk of having a baby who has fetal distress or malformations is not increased with the presence of HCV. Additionally, the risk of stillbirth is not increased. While little research has been done in this area the research that is available notes that there is no increased risk of complications during your pregnancy or birth – for you or the baby – simply because you have HCV.
Can You Prevent Transmission to Your Baby?
To date, there is no medical way to stop the transmission of HCV to your baby if you are infected – but the chances are greater that you won’t transmit the disease. What most experts agree on is that if you have HCV, you should have a cesarean section birth instead of a vaginal birth, as it is believed that this lowers the risk of transmission.
Although this is really the only thing that can medically be done to prevent transmission, if you have hepatitis C, and find out that you are pregnant, make sure that you notify your doctor immediately, and that you let your obstetrician know, as well as the pediatrician that you choose to care for your baby.
After the Birth
Once your child is born, he or she will be tested for hepatitis C. If hepatitis C is present, treatment will begin, but your child can still live a long, full life. If you planned to breastfeed, check with your doctor first. There has not been a great deal of research in this area, and it may be best to bottle feed to avoid transmission after the child is born. However, if the child has hepatitis C, breastfeeding will not harm the child in any way.