5 Facts About Hepatitis C and Pregnancy

The HealthCentral Editorial Team | Aug 11, 2014 Nov 9, 2016

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Incidence of hepatitis C rising

Most women become pregnant between ages 20 and 40, and the incidence of hepatitis C is rising in that same age group. Women with risk factors for hepatitis C, such as injected drug use or exposure to contaminated needles, should be screened for hepatitis C before getting pregnant and during pregnancy.

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Risk of infection depends on RNA

The risk of a woman passing hepatitis C (HCV) to her child depends on the levels of RNA in her blood. Risk of transmission from a mother to fetus is highest in women with HCV RNA greater than 1 million copies/mL. Mothers who do not have detectable hepatitis C RNA levels will not infect their babies.

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HIV coinfection increases risk

Another factor that increases risk of a mother passing HCV to her child is if she is also HIV positive. If a mother is HIV negative and has no history of intravenous drug use or blood transfusions, the risk of transmission is 0 percent to 18 percent.

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There are no preventative treatments

There are currently no preventive treatments that can limit the risk of transmission of HCV from mother to infant. Also, a pregnant woman with hepatitis should be checked for liver function on a regular basis by a specialist.

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Some medications should be stopped

Some HCV medications should be discontinued during pregnancy. For example, interferon therapy should be stopped, because the effect on the fetus is unknown. In addition, women should not become pregnant while on interferon and ribavirin combination therapy, due to high risk for birth defects. Mothers also should not breastfeed when taking interferon and ribarivin.