EXPERT ADVICE: I’m pregnant ― Why do I have yellow skin and eyes?

Getting a hepatitis infection can put lives ― yours and bubba’s ― at risk. Follow these prevention strategies…

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Did you know that hepatitis is a silent infection? This is because many people don’t have experience symptoms when they are infected with the virus.

If left untreated, the virus will eventually trigger liver disease, which will cause irreversible organ damage. Symptoms such as the yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes — also known as jaundice ― are often the first sign that something is wrong with your liver.

Do note that you’ll be given a blood test to detect the presence of any viruses in your body during your second trimester. However, it might be too late to treat the infection. Worse, mums-to-be cab easily transmit the virus to their newborns during delivery.

SmartParents expert and Gleneagles hospital ob-gyn, Dr Christopher Chong and ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew, tell you how you how to avoid contracting this disease:

Hepatitis A

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED? This strain of hepatitis virus is prevalent in developing countries where sanitary conditions are poor. Most infections result from consuming food and beverage contaminated by infected faeces.

ANY PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS? Infection in the second and third trimesters have been be “associated with preterm labour and other complications”, warns Dr Chew. While there are no known foetal deaths as a result of the virus, rare cases of birth defects have been reported. Your foetus maybe born with fluid in their abdomen or have an infection of the abdomen. Otherwise, hepatitis A may cause jaundice in the child, or they may develop a hole — called perforation — in their small intestines, Dr Chew explains.

HOW TO AVOID CONTRACTING IT Only consume food and drinks from hygienic sources with proper food handling and water sanitation. If you do get infected while you are pregnant, Dr Chong notes that your baby will be given a hepatitis B jab at birth.

TREATMENT Dr Chong notes that medication is usually not required as the viral infection will eventually resolve on its own. “Treatment is only needed if there’s liver damage or in a situation where the lack of treatment will cause liver damage.” Your doctor will need to weigh the risk of possible side effects of medication on both mother and baby.

Research also suggests pregnant women who have Hepatitis C tend to deliver their children prematurely and with a low birth weight.

Hepatitis B

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED? This is the most common strain of hepatitis in Singapore, with some 6 per cent of Singaporeans suffering from the disease, says Dr Chew. You may catch the virus if you come into contact with infected blood, semen or any other bodily fluids. Your unborn child may also get infected during birth.

ANY PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS? Your kewpie may contract the infection at birt,h but usually, there aren’t any symptoms. However, infected newborns have a high risk — up to 90 per cent — of becoming carriers. Dr Chew explains, “When they become adults, they have a 25 per cent risk of dying of cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.”

HOW TO AVOID CONTRACTING IT Chances are, you and bubba have already been vaccinated at birth against the virus. “The jab will reduce transmission risks to very low levels.” Notes Dr Chong. While hepatitis B isn’t mainly spread through food and water, there have been reported cases of babies getting infected when they receive pre-chewed food from an infected person.

TREATMENT As there isn’t a known cure for the disease, treatment is in the form of relief from any symptoms such as jaundice. Hospital admission will only be required in severe situations says Dr Chew. “The patient will usually be advised to have bedrest, avoid any alcohol and TCM, which can exacerbate their condition.”

Hepatitis C

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED? The main mode of infection is coming in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, semen and other fluids.

ANY PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS? Dr Chew says thayt there is a one in 25 chance that your baby will get the infection whether you deliver vaginally or via C-section if you have it. Research also suggests pregnant women who have hepatitis C tend to deliver their children prematurely and with a low birth weight.

HOW TO AVOID CONTRACTING IT Avoid sharing any of your personal belongings such as toothbrushes, razors and cutlery with strangers. Make sure to only get tattoos and piercings from licenced establishments.

TREATMENT Your body is usually able to fight the virus on its own. But if your infection persists for several months, you’ll need to take medication ― after you’ve given birth.

Photo: iStock

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