A gynecologist yesterday urged women of childbearing age who are hepatitis B carriers to receive regular medical check-ups and drug treatment, if necessary, after a 36-year-old patient nearly passed down the disease to her newborn.
Cheng Ching Hospital’s Reproductive Medicine Center director Hsieh Chang-hsing (謝昌興) said the woman was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B infection coupled with liver cirrhosis about two years ago after experiencing tarry stool and vomiting blood.
“She was subsequently placed on drugs to control the virus and the medicines helped stabilize her condition,” Hsieh said.
The woman had visited the hospital again a few months ago complaining about serious vomiting, fretting that her liver condition had deteriorated, Hsieh said.
“However, her blood test results showed no signs of aggravation. Instead, an abdominal ultrasound found she was already four months pregnant,” Hsieh said.
In an effort to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) through an amniocentesis — a medical procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus for testing or treatment — Hsieh conducted a non-invasive fetal DNA testing instead, whose results showed that the fetus was uninfected.
The baby girl also tested negative for HBV after birth, Hsieh added.
Hsieh said that infants born to a pregnant woman positive for both hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg) has an approximately 85 percent chance of acquiring perinatal HBV infection.
The National Health Insurance (NHI) program requires that such newborns be injected with hepatitis B immunoglobulin to avoid a mother-to-child transmission, Hsieh said.
The injections are not covered by the health program if the mother is simply a hepatitis B carrier.
“Expectant women are strongly urged to receive proper medical treatment to control the number of HBV once they are found to be a hepatitis B carrier, in an effort to reduce the risks of them experiencing active hepatitis B infection during pregnancy and spreading the disease to their babies,” Hsieh said.
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