Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver, often caused by a viral infection. However, it’s important to note that hepatitis can also result from other factors such as alcohol and drug abuse, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, but there are also other less common types such as hepatitis D and hepatitis E. These viruses can be transmitted through various means, including contaminated food and water, unsafe sexual practices, sharing needles or from mother to child during childbirth.
Knowing the type of virus will help with knowing what to expect and how to manage.
Hepatitis A and E can be acquired through contaminated food and water. Poor sanitary conditions, eating under-cooked food, poor hand washing habits, raw fruits and vegetables if not cleaned properly and endemic areas, make pregnant women more vulnerable to the infection. Being in close proximity, sharing towels, etc. of patients of Hepatitis A and E can also transmit the virus.
Hepatitis A usually is self-limiting and doesn’t have long term effects on the liver. Anti-Hepatitis A vaccine is available and advisable to all high-risk patients. Rarely it may progress to acute liver failure requiring Liver transplant. Hepatitis E is the more dreaded of the two and can lead to rapid liver failure with a mortality risk upto 10-15 percent. Currently there is no specific antidote or approved vaccine available in India for Hepatitis E.
Hepatitis B, D and C can be acquired by unsafe sex, sharing needles, blood transfusion and from mother to her unborn baby. Most with Hepatitis B infection recover and become seronegative but few continue to be lifelong carrier and can pass the infection to the unborn baby during pregnancy. Anti Hep B vaccine is available, and vaccination is recommended.
The risk of transmission depends on the viral load. Anti-viral medication maybe given if the viral load is high or if Hepatitis B e antigen is positive. This can help in lowering the risk of transmission to the baby. Babies born to hepatitis B positive mothers are given Hep B vaccination within 12 hours followed by Immunoglobulins.
Risk of transmission of Hepatitis C is low, though maybe higher when viral load is high or if additionally, the expecting mother is HIV positive. There is no vaccine against Hepatitis C but treatment exists which may have to be continued for 3 months.
Hepatitis D happens when already infected with Hepatitis B and it makes the disease even more severe. However, Hepatitis D is very rare.
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver that results from a number of different risk factors, including contaminated water and food, unsafe sex, sharing needles, and from mother to child. While hepatitis A and E may not transmit from mother to baby, hepatitis B, D, and C can lead to infection in the unborn baby. Regular liver function and viral load maybe monitored throughout pregnancy for Hepatitis positive expecting mothers. Expecting mothers with Hepatitis need to be under close surveillance of her obstetrician and gastroenterologist to avoid any complications. All pregnant women are routinely advised to be screened for Hepatitis B, C and HIV in the first and last trimester of pregnancy.
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