Hepatitis A and Pregnancy


Hepatitis A refers to the liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is the most common hepatitis virus worldwide, particularly prevalent in developing countries. Other hepatitis viruses include hepatitis B and hepatitis C. But unlike hepatitis B and hepatitis C, hepatitis A is not a chronic (long-term) disease. Although HAV causes the liver to swell and inflame, the liver heals. Once a person is infected, they will not become infected again.



How can I get hepatitis A?


You can get the hepatitis A virus by coming in contact with an infected person's:

  • Food, drinks, eating utensils, and cigarettes
  • Bodily fluids and feces
  • During oral or anal sex


Another way of becoming infected by HAV includes eating oysters and shellfish contaminated with sewerage.



Symptoms and Signs


It takes an average of 4 weeks for the signs of heptatis A to appear after being exposed. Some physicals signs of hepatitis A include:


  • Nausea and Headaches
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (can last 1 to 6 weeks)
  • Abnormal bowel movements (infectious for 2 weeks)
  • Enlarged liver


Can I test for hepatitis A during pregnancy?


Normally hepatitis A is not tested for during pregnancy. But, if you or your doctor suspects you have hepatitis A during your pregnancy, your doctor will perform a blood test to confirm. However, the blood test can't detect the hepatitis A virus, until 2 to 5 weeks after being exposed to hepatitis A.



Does hepatitis A affect the unborn baby?


In most cases hepatitis A does not affect the unborn baby. However, in some causes it may lead to an increase risk of the following:

  • Fetal distress
  • Premature rupture of the membranes
  • Low birth weight

If a newborn becomes infected with hepatitis A they often experience very mild physical symptoms.



Can I get the hepatitis A vaccine during pregnancy?


Yes. The hepatitis A vaccine is consider safe to receive during pregnancy and can last up to 12 months. If you plan to travel to countries that have a high risk of hepatitis A during your pregnancy your doctor will provide you with a hepatitis A vaccination, 2 weeks before your travel.


If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis A, your doctor may give you an injection of normal human immunoglobulin (NIGH) along with the hepatitis A vaccine. The NIGH provides temporary immunity to the hepatitis A virus until the vaccine starts to work.



Can I breastfeed with hepatitis A?


Women infected with hepatitis A are encouraged to breastfeed with care. Make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap before touching your breasts and nipples, especially after using the washroom or changing your baby's diaper.




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