This sheet is about having hepatitis A in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare provider.
What is hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a virus that spreads among people very easily. The virus infects the liver. After coming in contact with the hepatitis A virus, it generally takes 15 to 50 days to develop the illness. Symptoms of infection can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, dark colored urine, flu-like symptoms, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes). Symptoms tend to be mild in children, but they can be more serious in people who get the infection for the first time as adults. Unlike other forms of hepatitis, hepatitis A does not cause chronic (long-term) liver problems.
How do you get hepatitis A?
The hepatitis A virus spreads through contact with the feces of an infected person. Common sources of infection include contaminated cooking/eating utensils, contaminated toys, and contaminated food and water. People working in childcare settings or living in households with affected family members have an increased chance of getting the virus. Hepatitis A is the most common cause of jaundice in people who are pregnant.
How can I lower the chance of getting hepatitis A?
The hepatitis A vaccine provides the best protection against the virus. MotherToBaby has a fact sheet on the hepatitis A vaccine at: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/hepatitis-a-vaccine/. In addition, practicing good hygiene can lower the chance of infection. This includes washing hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, and before preparing and eating food. Boiling contaminated food or water for one minute can kill the virus.
I have hepatitis A. Can it make it harder for me to become pregnant?
It is not known if having hepatitis A can make it harder to get pregnant. It is possible that being ill could temporarily affect your menstrual cycle.
Does having hepatitis A increase the chance for miscarriage?
Miscarriage is common and can occur in any pregnancy for many different reasons. Having hepatitis A is not expected to increase the chance of miscarriage.
Does having hepatitis A during pregnancy increase the chance of birth defects?
Every pregnancy starts with a 3-5% chance of having a birth defect. This is called the background risk. Studies have not shown an increased chance for birth defects following hepatitis A exposure in pregnancy.
Would having hepatitis A during pregnancy increase the chance of other pregnancy related problems?
Most people who get hepatitis A during pregnancy do not experience serious complications. Studies have shown an increased chance of preterm labor (labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy) following hepatitis A infection during pregnancy; this is more common when there is fever. Problems with the placenta have also been reported. There are rare reports of the virus passing to the developing baby and causing inflammation of the baby’s liver after delivery (neonatal hepatitis).
Does having Hepatitis A in pregnancy affect future behavior or learning for the child?
Hepatitis A in pregnancy is not expected to cause long-term problems.
Breastfeeding while I have hepatitis A:
Most people who are nursing can continue to breastfeed while they have a hepatitis A infection. There are antibodies present in breast milk that may help the baby not get an infection. If the breastfeeding person becomes very ill or jaundiced, they might need to stop breastfeeding until they recover. The baby may need immune globulin shots for protection against the virus. People who get hepatitis A while breastfeeding should practice good hand washing and other hygiene practices. They should also talk with their baby’s healthcare provider about the best ways to protect the baby from the virus.
If a male has hepatitis A, can it make it harder to get a partner pregnant or increase the chance of birth defects? Hepatitis A has not been studied for effects on fertility. Partners cannot pass hepatitis A directly to a baby during pregnancy. However, an infected partner can pass the virus to the person who is pregnant through sexual contact, or by sharing food, drink, or utensils. Both partners should practice good hand washing and other hygiene. In general, exposures that fathers or sperm donors have are unlikely to increase the risk to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet Paternal Exposures at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/.
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OTIS/MotherToBaby encourages inclusive and person-centered language. While our name still contains a reference to mothers, we are updating our resources with more inclusive terms. Use of the term mother or maternal refers to a person who is pregnant. Use of the term father or paternal refers to a person who contributes sperm.