Breastfeeding gives new mothers like you immense joy. It is a great time to bond with your baby. You are trying your best to stay healthy and pass on all the required nutrition to your baby. Falling sick and not being able to nurse your baby may be your worst nightmare.
Are you suffering from hepatitis and are worried sick that you may pass it on to your baby while breastfeeding him? If you are looking for answers, read on to know more in detail about hepatitis and breastfeeding.
What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a viral infection that makes your liver swell and in severe cases leads to scarring (fibrosis) or cancer. Sometimes, prolonged drug or alcohol abuse can lead to hepatitis. In other cases, your body’s immune system may attack the healthy liver cells by mistake and lead to hepatitis (1) .
What Is Hepatitis A, B, And C?
Here are the three main types of hepatitis:
1. Hepatitis A (HAV):
HAVor infectious hepatitis lasts for a short time. Hepatitis A is the initial stage of the infection and may be mild or severe. It is not known to be life threatening. It mainly spreads through food or water contaminated by human waste. Safe and effective vaccinations are available for prevention of hepatitis A.
2. Hepatitis B (HBV):
HBV or serum hepatitis lasts longer than hepatitis A. It can lead to chronic liver diseases and therefore be life threatening too. It spreads through contaminated food, intercourse and exchange of bodily fluids like saliva, mucus or blood. Safe and effective vaccinations are available for prevention of hepatitis B or HBV(2).
3. Hepatitis C (HCV):
Hepatitis C begins with mild symptoms but can cause liver cancer. It spreads through sexual contact or infected blood or needles. There are no vaccinations for hepatitis C or HCV yet (3) .
Symptoms Of Hepatitis:
Here are the most common symptoms:
- Mild fever
- Pain in the abdomen and joints
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Breastfeeding And Hepatitis:
Depending on the stage and severity of your condition, your doctor will suggest whether feeding is okay or not. In most cases, mothers affected with hepatitis can breastfeed.
1. Suffering From Hepatitis A (HAV):
Hepatitis A does not transmit through breast milk. If you are suffering from Hepatitis A, your doctor will most likely give you the go ahead to breastfeed. Usually doctors prescribe gamma globulin, a medicine safe for lactating mothers. Check with your doctor about the medication.
2. Suffering From Hepatitis B (HBV):
Thinking can you breastfeed with hepatitis b? Well, if your doctor diagnoses you with hepatitis B, your baby will need to take a full set of immunization. The first immunization shot for your baby may be within 12 hours of birth. The next immunization will be between the first and second month. When your baby is between 9 and 18 months, your doctor will schedule certain tests to rule out infection.
3. Suffering From Hepatitis C (HCV):
If you are suffering from hepatitis C, you may feel excessively tired. While HCV does not spread through breastfeeding, your doctor may advise you to stop it temporarily as a precautionary measure.
Things To Remember:
Both hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) can spread through contaminated blood. As a breastfeeding mother if you are suffering from HBV or HCV, you must ensure you take extra care of your nipples. Cracked nipples can sometimes bleed and lead to the spread of the hepatitis infection (4). Use a safe and effective nipple soothing cream to prevent dryness and cracks. If you notice any cracks or bleeding in or around the nipple, stop breastfeeding.
Speak to your doctor to know about the tests that can help diagnose hepatitis. As hepatitis also spreads through contaminated sources, it is important to maintain hygiene. Ensure you always keep your home and kitchen clean. Practice safe sex. Always wash your hands after using the washroom or visiting a public place.
Breastfeeding is a highly emotional and important phase for you as a mother. It is important both you and your baby be in the best of health. If you have, any doubts or concerns speak to your doctor to know more about breastfeeding and hepatitis.
If you have suffered from any form of Hepatitis while nursing your baby, please share with us your experience and advice.