What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B can be defined as the viral infection of the liver. It is caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is the most common type of virus and can affect a person adversely if left undetected and untreated.
What are the risks to the baby born to Hepatitis B mother?
If the mother has Hepatitis B, there are chances of transfer of virus to the baby. Transmission can occur while the baby is in utero, during delivery and in postpartum period. Most of the cases are due to transmission of virus at the time of delivery due to exposure to blood. That virus can infect the baby and can cause hepatitis in the baby. Baby can become a chronic carrier and can develop liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in later life.
Does breast milk contain Hepatitis B Virus?
Yes, HBV can be found in the breast milk of 70% of carrier mothers, but there is no evidence of transmission of Hepatitis B through mother’s milk.
Can Hepatitis B Positive mother give breastfeed to her baby?
Yes, according to WHO and UNICEF guidelines breastfeeding can be given, as breast milk is the natural and optimal feed to the baby. Mother feeding in hepatitis B positive mother infant can be made more safe by immunisation of the baby with Hepatitis B Vaccine and Hepatitis B immunoglobulin . Hepatitis B vaccine and immunoglobulins are to be given within 12hrs of delivery and the vaccine should be repeated after 1 month and 6 months. This will substantially reduce perinatal transmission and virtually eliminate any risk of transmission through breastfeeding or breast milk feeding. Immunization of infants will also prevent infection from all other modes of HBV transmission. Exclusive breast feeding is to be continued till 6 months of age .Start complementary feeds at 6 months of age and along with that continue breast feeding for two years.
What to do if Hepatitis B positive mother has sore or cracked or bleeding nipples?
Mothers should breastfeed the baby carefully so that she would not get cracked or sore nipple. In case she gets sore or cracked or bleeding for nipple ,stop breast feeding and take treatment for sore nipples. Because sore nipples or cracked nipples can transmit the virus through exposure to blood . During that period she should express the milk and discard it. She should resume the feeding after the nipples are healed .