Many women with hep C fall pregnant and have children. If you develop cirrhosis, however, you may find it difficult to fall pregnant or be more likely to have a miscarriage.
If you are living with hep C and you’re pregnant or planning to fall pregnant then one of the biggest concerns you might have right now you is whether or not your baby will contract hep C. There is a chance that your baby will be born with hep C. This chance is around 4-6 percent. This means that out of one hundred babies whose mums have hep C, about five of the babies will have hep C.
If your baby is born with hep C then there is a one-in-four chance that they will clear the virus naturally. That means that 25 percent of babies born with hep C do not develop chronic hep C.
It is recommended that babies born to women with hep C are tested. With babies, a PCR test can be done after 8 weeks of age, or a hep C antibody test after 18 months of age.
Pregnancy and treatment
Because of limited safety data, pregnancy should be avoided during hep C treatment. Talk to your doctor about treatment, and pregnancy and contraception.
Hep C is not passed on by breast milk. It’s recommended that a mum who is living with hep C breastfeed their baby. The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the very small risk that hep C could be passed on.
Hep C can be passed on if there is blood in your breastmilk. This might happen if your nipples are cracked or bleeding. If this happens, stop breastfeeding until your nipples heal. While your nipples are healing, feed your baby with formula, and express and discard your own milk.
An important note on hep C treatment: You cannot undertake treatment for hep C while you are breastfeeding as one of the drugs used to treat hep C (ribavirin) can be present in breastmilk and will cause significant illness.
This page was last updated 24 April 2017.
Content drawn from the National Hepatitis C Testing Policy and publications of ASHM, The Kirby Institute and The Centre for Social Research in Health, and vetted by our Medical and Research Advisory Panel.