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Viral Hepatitis

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FAQ: Hepatitis C and pregnancy. What are risks to baby if one of the partners in the couple has it?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will the baby be infected if the mother or father has hepatitis C?

The baby's risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C in the womb varies, depending on whether the parent with hepatitis C is the father or the mother.

If the mother is infected, whether or not the father is infected, there is a 1 in 25 chance that the baby will be born with hepatitis C. The risk is the same regardless of whether the birth occurs by vaginal delivery or by cesarean section. The risk is higher if the mother is also HIV infected.

If the father has hepatitis C but the mother does not, the baby cannot become infected because a father cannot pass the virus directly to a baby. If the father first passes the virus to the mother through sex, then the baby possibly could be infected by the mother. However, the chance of the virus being transmitted both from father to mother and then from mother to baby is almost zero.

Testing for hepatitis C in a newborn should be performed at 8-12 weeks of age. Approximately 1 in 5 infants will clear the infection without any medical help. For those who become chronically infected, most have no symptoms (but their lab tests will show abnormal liver enzymes).

Liver disease tends to progress more slowly in children infected with hepatitis C than in people who are infected with the virus later in life. Children also respond slightly better than adults to treatment.