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Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: Does having hepatitis C mean that I shouldn't have children?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does having hepatitis C mean that I shouldn't have children?

No. If you have hepatitis C and you hope to have children, you need to decide on whether you would want to be treated for hepatitis C before having children or after having children. Babies have extremely low risk of being born with hepatitis C but a more serious consideration is about the dangers to the baby from the hepatitis C medications because they can damage a baby in the womb.

So, the most important consideration for couples wanting to have children when one partner has hepatitis C is the timing of treatment. One of the drugs used to treat hepatitis C (the drug called ribavirin) can cause severe birth defects in the baby. This is true whether it is the man or woman being treated with ribavirin. If either partner is taking ribavirin, the couple must use two effective forms of birth control to avoid a pregnancy. For example: the man uses a condom, and the woman uses a diaphragm or birth control pills.

A hepatitis C-positive man or woman who wants to have a child can:

  • Have their children first, and wait on treatment of hepatitis C until after they have had all the children they intend to have.

OR

  • Undergo hepatitis C treatment first, and wait on having children until after the hepatitis C treatment has been completed. If this is the choice, then the couple must use birth control during the course of treatment and for an additional 6 months after the completion of ribavirin treatment. It is recommended to use 2 forms of birth control to be extra cautious to not become pregnant while using ribavirin because it is so important to avoid pregnancy while there is exposure to ribavirin. Then after treatment is completed and an additional 6 months after treatment have passed, then it is safe to become pregnant.