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Protecting your baby from hepatitis B

​​​​If you’re pregnant and carry the hepatitis B virus, you likely have questions.

How can I protect my baby?

Your baby can be protected from hepatitis B with an injection of antibodies and a vaccine that protect against hepatitis B. These work best if your baby gets them within 12 hours after being born.

  • Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) has antibodies that protect your baby from hepatitis B right away. But this protection only lasts a short time (about a few months).
  • The hepatitis B vaccine gives your baby long-lasting protection against hepatitis B. Your baby will need extra doses (called booster shots) of the vaccine at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.

What happens if my baby doesn’t get HBIG or the hepatitis B vaccine?

If your baby doesn’t get HBIG and the hepatitis B vaccine, they have a 30% to 85% chance of being infected with hepatitis B. This depends on how much virus is in your blood and other factors related to your health.

If your baby gets infected with hepatitis B when they’re born, they have an 80% to 90% chance of developing a long-lasting (chronic) hepatitis B infection. And about 25% of these babies will develop a serious liver disease, such as liver damage (cirrhosis) or liver cancer, when they’re older.

If your baby gets HBIG and a hepatitis B vaccine right after they’re born and get all the booster shots they need, their risk of a hepatitis B infection is about 1% or less.

What if I don’t carry the hepatitis B virus but someone else in my home does?

If someone else in your home (such as your partner or a caregiver) carries the hepatitis B virus, your baby only needs the hepatitis B vaccine. They don’t need HBIG.

Is HBIG safe?

HBIG is very safe. It’s made from human blood, and all blood and blood donors are fully tested. This is to make sure there are no viruses like hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The blood is also treated to destroy any viruses and bacteria that it may have.

Are there any risks if my baby gets HBIG?

The risk of getting an infection from HBIG is very low. There are no reports of anyone getting a virus such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C from HBIG.

There are some very small risks with taking HBIG. But it’s much safer for your baby to have HBIG than to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection and get very sick.

If your baby gets HBIG, there’s a very small chance they could have:

  • a serious allergic reaction to HBIG
  • swelling and redness where they got the needle

Is the hepatitis B vaccine safe?

Yes, the hepatitis B vaccine is safe. There is no virus in the vaccine. But your baby’s immune system will think it’s the hepatitis B virus. This teaches your baby’s immune system to make antibodies that protects them against the hepatitis B virus.

Are there any risks if my baby gets the hepatitis B vaccine?

Most babies have no side effects from the vaccine. But the area where your baby gets the needle may look a bit red for a short time. It’s very rare to have any serious side effects from this vaccine.

Find out more about the hepatitis B vaccine and how to manage side effects.

What should I do if I think my baby is sick?

Call Health Link at 811 or take your baby to your healthcare provider right away if you think they’re sick. Your healthcare provider will check for health problems that can happen to newborn babies, such as a serious infection.

Where can I learn more?

To learn more about protecting your baby from hepatitis B virus, visit:

Current as of: November 29, 2023

Author: Maternal Newborn Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services