What parents need to know
Even if you do not have symptoms, you may have hepatitis B, which can be passed to your baby at birth. Therefore, all women should be tested for hepatitis B every time they are pregnant. Simply ask your doctor to order a blood test for hepatitis B during one of your prenatal visits. If your test is negative for hepatitis B, you can be immunized to protect yourself in the future.
If your test is positive for hepatitis B, it is important to know how to best care for yourself and what steps you can take to protect others from getting the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The Perinatal Hepatitis B Coordinator in your county will help guide you through how to care for yourself and how to protect your baby, partner, and household members.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks your liver. Most people who have it have no symptoms, but are carriers of the disease and can pass it on to others. It is spread through infected blood and body fluids. You cannot get hepatitis B through holding hands, sneezing, coughing, hugging, or kissing.
How to care for yourself:
- See a doctor for a check-up at least once a year
- Review all medications with your doctor or pharmacist, even over-the-counter, as they can hurt your liver
How to protect your baby:
- Before you give birth, be sure your hospital knows you have hepatitis B
- Within 12 hours of birth, be sure your baby has hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine
- Be sure your baby’s doctor knows you have hepatitis B
- Be sure your baby completes the hepatitis B vaccine series (at least 3 doses). Completing the series by six months of age is recommended
- Three to six months after the vaccine series is complete (at 9 - 12 months of age), be sure your baby has a blood test. This will let you know if your baby is safe from getting HBV
- In most cases, mothers with HBV can still breastfeed their infant
How to protect your partner and other household members:
- It is important to notify your partner and household members of your test results. They should visit their doctor for testing and the hepatitis B vaccine series, as needed. Vaccine may be available through your local health department at reduced cost.
- Do not share toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or anything else that can carry blood or other body fluids
- Be sure you cover all cuts and open sores with a bandage
- Clean up blood with a mix of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water
"Start Protecting your Baby at Birth with the Hepatitis B Vaccine"
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