Written on June 26, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Expecting a baby can be a joyous but also somewhat stressful time. You are probably happy to be pregnant but also busy getting things ready for your new addition to the family. During your pregnancy, you regularly visit your healthcare provider, who specializes in caring for you and your baby. You are also probably wondering about all the testing and potential health concerns during the pregnancy. One of these conditions is hepatitis C. Read on to get a better understanding of hepatitis C and how it can impact pregnancy.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).[1,2] There are acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C illness. Acute hepatitis C happens within six months after exposure to the virus, and acute infection often leads to chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C is a lifelong infection, and many times, people have no symptoms.[1,2] If it is left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, or death. In the United States, chronic hepatitis C infection is the most common reason for liver transplants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates close to 50,000 cases of acute hepatitis C annually, even though only around 3,600 cases were reported in 2018. Many people experience no symptoms, and cases often go undiagnosed. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. had chronic hepatitis C in 2016.
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted by coming into contact with infected blood. Most people get infected with hepatitis C by sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to prepare and inject drugs. Other ways hepatitis C spreads include :
The CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that all pregnant patients receive screening for hepatitis C during pregnancy.[3,4] Even though there are no treatment strategies proven to prevent transmission from mother to baby, healthcare providers should still screen for HCV infections. Knowing the HCV status in pregnancy can help delivery management decisions that may impact HCV transmission and reduce the risk. It also allows healthcare providers to treat the mother following birth and provide infants with testing and monitoring during pediatric visits.
From 2006 to 2014, there were an estimated 29,000 women with the hepatitis C virus who gave birth. The rate of mother-to-child transmission is around 3% to 5% for the hepatitis C virus.  Each year, there are about 1,7000 infants born with hepatitis C infection. The risk of mother-to-infant transmission of hepatitis C is higher in mothers who are also HIV positive.
If an infant is born to a mother with hepatitis C, they should receive testing during their pediatric visits. There is currently no approved treatment for children less than three years of age. Monitoring should be implemented in infants who test positive for the hepatitis C virus. Treatment can then be started with an antiviral when they are older than three years old.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is to avoid being infected in the first place. Screening during pregnancy for hepatitis C in women is essential. Since hepatitis C is often symptomless and presents only later when liver disease is already advanced, you may be infected without knowing it. After you give birth, there are treatment options available that can cure most people with hepatitis C infection in eight to 12 weeks.
If you are concerned and wondering if you are infected with the hepatitis C virus, consider an at-home Hepatitis C Test. At-home lab testing can be a convenient and discreet option to take care of your health. The at-home lab test will check your exposure to the hepatitis C virus. If your test results are abnormal, a healthcare provider will connect with you at no additional cost to discuss your case. The at-home lab test measures the antibodies to the hepatitis C virus and only needs a finger prick sample.
Additionally, Everlywell also offers on on-demand STD consults, allowing you to quickly speak with a healthcare provider about STDs and pregnancy.