While some vaccines are safe during pregnancy, some are better left until after baby is born. The Hep B virus is very serious but it’s also controllable. But is the hepatitis B shot during pregnancy safe?
Much as vaccinating against Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is important for some women, it may not be as critical for others. And your Hep B status is important to know as you make plans for birth and postpartum.
Consequently, parents-to-be need to consider their lifestyle because it plays a role in this decision.
While you research your birth preferences and begin to write your birth plan, think about your Hep B status. Maybe you question whether the vaccine is necessary for all babies. And, is your baby one of them?
WHAT IS HEP B?
HBV is found throughout the world. It causes liver inflammation and disease.
And it can damage the liver, leave scarring, or cause liver failure or cancer.
Yet when it is caught early, the disease can last only a few months. And afterwards, you have lifelong immunity.
Young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Most of all, unvaccinated children under six years old who get Hep B have 80-90% chance of having it for life.
Hep B is passed through contact with blood, open sores, or through the body fluids. A baby can get it from an infected mother during birth or from someone that actively has it or is a carrier.
Carriers can have the virus yet not have the disease. But they can still pass it to others.
So if you or someone in your house traveled to places where Hep B is common, it’s important to be tested for HBV. Pregnant women at risk of having the virus are highly encouraged to be tested and vaccinated if necessary.
Lifestyle factors that increase Hep B risk are:
- Jobs that deal with body fluids
- Regularly being in prisons
- Being in countries with high rates of Hep B
- Unprotected sex
- Multiple sex partners
- Living with someone with chronic Hep B
- Piercings or tattoos with unsterilized equipment
- Sharing drug paraphernalia
If none of these are part of your lifestyle, does your baby need the shot? There’s a debate about that.
WHAT ABOUT THE VACCINE?
First of all, pregnancy is not a reason for avoiding the vaccine. Women in the US are regularly tested for it during pregnancy.
Hep B is preventable and treatable.
- Initial dose
- 1 month after initial dose
- 6 months after initial dose
Some researchers believe that giving a pregnant mother the Hep B vaccine will provide her baby with automatic protection. Yet there have been no randomized controlled trials to sufficiently prove that.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR BABY?
If you have Hep B or are a carrier, your baby could get it during birth.
Fortunately, Hep B doesn’t pass through breast milk. But at home baby could get it if someone in your house has it.
In the US babies are routinely given the Hep B shot within 12 hours of birth. And they receive their second dose at one month and the third at six months.
Some states require babies get the vaccine. But state vaccination laws don’t apply to private hospitals and birthing centers.
Consequently, you can refuse it if you plan to give birth in one of these. So make sure the birth plan you include in your hospital bag checklist says so.
Finally, talk to your trusted care provider or check out the resources in this article.
And most of all, be sure your choice is the right one for you and your family.
To learn more about pregnancy health, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: November 28, 2016 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: November, 2016