Treatment for all types of acute hepatitis is similar. You will be prescribed rest and large amounts of fluids. If diarrhea causes significant dehydration, anti-diarrheal medication may be necessary. You will be advised to avoid alcohol because it may cause further injury to your liver. You will also be told to discontinue non-essential medications, such as acetaminophen (or other over-the-counter pain relievers), estrogens (including birth control pills), and vitamins A, D, and E-any of these may also aggravate liver injury. If you are taking any prescription or non-prescription medication, be sure to talk to your doctor about whether to continue or stop taking them.
Many women can be treated at home. But, hospitalization may be necessary if you:
- are unable to keep down fluids despite anti-nausea medication;
- are unable to keep down essential medications that are taken orally;
- have a co-existing medical condition, such as chronic heart, liver, or kidney disease or a blood-clotting disorder;
- are debilitated;
- have a history of alcohol abuse;
- require medications that are broken down by the liver, such as drugs used to treat seizures, cancer, anxiety, HIV, abnormal heart rhythms, diabetes, and blood-clotting disorders. (If this is the case, you should have your blood levels monitored and may need to reduce or temporarily discontinue medication.);
- are taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin (Coumadin) and require close monitoring of your blood coagulation; or
- have a prolonged illness and require intravenous nutritional therapy.
Preventing the Spread of Infection
During your treatment, your doctor will instruct you on how to prevent spreading the disease to others:
- wash your hands often;
- avoid preparing food that will be eaten by others. This is especially important for women with hepatitis A and E, which are transmitted through the fecal-oral route. But it is also important for other forms of hepatitis because of the possibility of saliva or blood droplets contaminating food;
- use barrier methods for sexual contact; and
- encourage members of your household to receive immune globulin (IG) or a vaccination, when appropriate.
Women with chronic infection will be monitored periodically for worsening liver function and blood clotting abnormalities. For women with chronic hepatitis C, the drug alpha-interferon (Infergen) has shown some activity against the virus. Yet, relapses occur in 44 to 80% of patients within six to 12 months of discontinuing therapy. Due to adverse fetal effects associated with treatment for hepatitis C, pregnant women are not eligible for therapy.
Should My Baby Be Immunized At Delivery?
When vaccinations are available, your baby should be immunized at delivery.
- Hepatitis A: Immune globulin (IG) should be given to all babies, whether or not the mother has hepatitis.
- Hepatitis B: All newborns should be vaccinated, whether or not the mother is infected. Babies born to mothers who have the hepatitis B surface antigen receive the vaccine for hepatitis B and immune globulin right after birth.
- Hepatitis C: There are currently no immunizations for babies. Further, the benefit of giving immune globulin against hepatitis C to newborns has not yet been proven in clinical trials.
- Hepatitis D: Immunization against hepatitis B also protects a baby against hepatitis D.
- Hepatitis E: There are currently no immunizations for babies.
- Hepatitis G: There are currently no immunizations for babies.