Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. The virus is spread by contact with an infected person's blood. So there's a chance that you could have spread it to your baby before or during childbirth. This is more likely to happen if you also have HIV.
It will be important to get your baby tested for hepatitis C. This is usually done when a baby is at least 18 months old. But testing may be done sooner.
If your baby is infected with the virus, the test is repeated at or after age 3. This will tell the doctor if your child needs to be treated. Sometimes a child's body will get rid of the virus without treatment.
You need to be treated for hepatitis C, even if you feel fine now. It's important for your health, for your baby, and for others you're close to. Over time, the virus can damage your liver. Treatment can usually cure hepatitis C. It can also keep you from spreading the virus to others.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your baby at home?
- Follow your doctor's advice about getting your baby tested for hepatitis C. And if you have other children, talk to your doctor about getting them tested too.
- Make sure that your baby gets all the recommended childhood vaccines. This includes the vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These are usually given in the first 2 years of life. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
- Breastfeed your baby if you can. The virus isn't spread through breast milk. So it's safe to breastfeed while you have hepatitis C unless your nipples are cracked or bleeding.
- Be safe with medicines. Make sure that the doctor knows about any medicines your baby takes. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse. Do not give your baby any new medicine unless the doctor says it is okay.
- Take steps to avoid spreading the virus to your baby and others.
- Don't share personal items that may have blood on them. These include towels, razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers.
- Keep any cuts, scrapes, or blisters covered.
- Use a diluted bleach solution to clean surfaces that have blood on them. Before you throw away items with blood on them, seal them in a plastic bag.
- If you use drugs, don't share supplies used to snort or inject drugs, like needles, syringes, or straws. Sharing supplies is the main way hepatitis C is spread.
- Take care of yourself.
- Get treated for hepatitis C. You'll probably be treated after breastfeeding is done (or after delivery if you don't breastfeed).
- Try to stay healthy by avoiding drugs and alcohol. If you need help to quit, tell your doctor. Treatment can help you get and stay sober.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your baby has blood in their stool or vomit.
- Your baby has new or increasing yellow color to their skin or the whites of their eyes.
- Your baby has new or worse vomiting or diarrhea.
- Your baby has a fever.
- Your baby does not want to eat or drink.
Take good care of yourself too. Call your doctor right away if:
- You have any belly pain.
- You have flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, fever, nausea, or diarrhea.
- You are extremely tired (more than expected) and find it hard to care for your baby.
- You have lost your appetite.
Where can you learn more?
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