Most times when people test positive for viral hepatitis B; they begin to wonder how they got it? So many questions start to run through their mind. In this article, we are going to discuss mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus infection , how it might be a cause of hepatitis B in people who don’t know how they got the virus, and how it can be prevented.
When Dayo was first told by his Doctor that he was hepatitis B positive, the first questions from him was ” what is hepatitis B? how did I get it? ” he asked.
”Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmitted via infected blood and body fluid” he was told.
But how did he get it?
There are several ways a person can contract hepatitis B virus infection, but mother-to-child transmission is one of the most common routes.
When a woman is pregnant, at her first prenatal (during pregnancy) visit to the clinic, she is screened for viral hepatitis B – this ensures early detection.
Why is this important?
It is estimated that 90% of children who contract hepatitis B from their mother during the process of childbirth will go on to live with it for the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, the risk of mother-to-child transmission is significantly higher in expectant mothers who have plasma HBV DNA levels greater than 2,000 IU/ML and/or are hepatitis B envelope antigen-positive (HBeAg positive).
In the absence of antiviral therapy and immunoprophylaxis (hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin) about 70% to 90% of babies born to hepatitis B envelope positive (HBeAg positive), mothers might become positive for hepatitis B.
What can a family do to prevent their infant from getting infected with hepatitis B, if a mother is hepatitis B positive?
First, ensure an expectant mother get screened for hepatitis B and knows her status before term.
Secondly, antiviral therapy to prevent mother-to-child transmission should be initiated according to experts during week 28 to 32 of gestation, if a mother HBV DNA level is greater than 200,000 IU/mL and it should be discontinued at delivery, however, there are other factors to be considered.
Additionally, positive women who don’t meet the above criteria should monitor their status by doing a liver function test every 3 months during pregnancy and every 6 months after giving birth – the level of Alanine aminotransferase enzyme (ALT) has a lot to reveal.
Lastly, the baby should receive birth dose hepatitis B vaccination and hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) within 12 hours of birth: this reduces the risk of a baby contracting hepatitis B by at least 92%.
In conclusion, chances are high Dayo must have gotten hepatitis B as a child from his infected mother, his condition was asymptomatic, and he got to discover his status 20 to 30 years later.
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