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Hepatitis C in Pregnancy: Care Instructions

Overview

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver. It's caused by a virus. The virus is spread by contact with an infected person's blood. This contact can happen when people share items like needles, razors, or toothbrushes. It can also be spread through sex. And there's a chance that you could spread the virus to your baby before or during delivery. This is more likely to happen if you also have HIV.

Having hepatitis C doesn't mean that you or your baby will have problems during pregnancy or delivery. But it does increase the risk of problems. You may have extra ultrasounds or other tests to make sure that you and your baby are doing well. Hepatitis C by itself is not a reason to have a caesarean delivery (C-section).

Sometimes hepatitis C is a short-term (acute) infection that goes away without treatment. But more often, it becomes a long-term (chronic) infection that can damage the liver.

Antiviral medicines can usually cure hepatitis C and help prevent liver damage. You'll probably be treated after breastfeeding is done (or after delivery if you don't breastfeed). It's safe to breastfeed while you have hepatitis C unless your nipples are cracked or bleeding.

Make sure to follow your doctor's or midwife's advice about testing your baby for hepatitis C. Babies are usually tested when they are 12 to 18 months old. But testing may be done sooner.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Go to all your prenatal visits. Your doctor or midwife will do tests to make sure that you are healthy and that your baby is growing properly.
  • Be sure that all doctors, midwives, and other health professionals who treat you or your baby during labour, delivery, and recovery know that you have hepatitis C. This will help them take steps to protect your baby.
  • Make sure your doctor or midwife knows all of the medicines you take. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse. Do not take any new medicines unless your doctor or midwife tells you to. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
  • Stay away from harmful substances. If you need help quitting, tell your doctor or midwife. Treatment can help keep you and your baby healthy.
    • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage your liver and cause problems in your baby.
    • Avoid illegal drugs and cannabis. And don't use tobacco or vape.
  • If you haven't already, get the vaccines to protect yourself from hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These vaccines are safe during pregnancy.
  • Stay away from people who have colds and other infections.
  • Try to avoid spreading the hepatitis C virus to others.
    • Tell the people you live with or have sex with that you have hepatitis C.
    • Don't share personal items, such as razors, towels, toothbrushes, or nail clippers.
    • Use a condom every time you have sex.
    • Keep any cuts, scrapes, or blisters covered.
    • If you use drugs, don't share supplies used to snort or inject drugs, like needles, syringes, or straws. Sharing supplies is the main way the virus is spread.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have blood in your stool or vomit.
  • There is a new or increasing yellow colour to your skin or the whites of your eyes.
  • You have pain in your belly or pelvis.
  • You have itchy skin, especially on your hands or feet.
  • You feel dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you might faint.
  • You have new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.
  • You can't keep down medicines or fluids.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter H569 in the search box to learn more about "Hepatitis C in Pregnancy: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.