Why it is important for Pregnant Mothers to undergo screening for Hepatitis B


Compiled by our reporter:

Globally, mothers with Hepatitis B Virus infection constitute a special group of high risk for care because they can infect their infants with hepatitis B.

In Africa, mother to child transmission is one of the most common routes through which newborn babies are infected with
hepatitis B infection. Infection may occur during delivery or after delivery mainly in the puerperium than in infancy.

Also infection occurs though horizontal routes possibly through sharing of sharp objects. However, available information shows that Hepatitis infection that is acquired in the neonatal period leads to chronicity in more than 95% of the infected infants.

Pregnant women will therefore need to be screened for Hepatitis B during Antenatal Care as part of the triple elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, hepatitis and syphilis.

Because Hepatitis B is endemic in Uganda, all babies are at risk of infection with Hepatitis B Virus especially if they are not vaccinated.
The objectives of care of pregnant mothers include early detection of CHBV, provision of appropriate information to mothers and their families in regard to HBV, undertake timely tests to determine eligibility for treatment, and to provide appropriate prophylaxis for the exposed babies.

Dr. Felix Kawooya, an associate with Uganda’s Ministry of Health says screening should be done by trained laboratory personnel or any other qualified health worker. He advises pregnant mothers to undertake Hepatitis B screening alongside other medical tests to ensure a healthy life for children.

According to the MOH, the Hepatitis B test for a pregnant mother should be done at her first antenatal visit.

Screening for Hepatitis is available and free of charge at all public , Private not for profit health facilities across the country.

Upon diagnosis, all mothers who test negative are given Information, Education and Communication, IEC about hepatitis
B including; transmission, prevention, signs and symptoms.

All mothers who test negative are given Information about prevention of hepatitis including infant vaccination.
All adults that test hepatitis B negative may be vaccinated against hepatitis especially the high risk groups.

Mothers who are positive for HBsAg should be referred to a medical doctor at a HCIV, or general hospital or for further care and treatment for those who are eligible.

In Uganda, treatment is Free at all HCIVs, General Hospitals and Regional Referral Hospitals.

Additional information:

Symptoms of Hepatitis B Virus infection include Yellow discoloration of eyes, Dark Urine, Extreme body weakness, Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Vaccination for children against Hepatitis B should be conducted at 6, 10 and 14 weeks. Adult vaccination may also be offered as long as there is no evidence of chronic infection.

Adolescents and adults should be given 3 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine in order to get full protection.



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