You will be approached shortly after your baby’s birth, if not before, to either give or refuse permission to have her vaccinated against hepatitis B. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that the hepatitis B vaccine be given prior to discharge from the newborn nursery, with more doses at 1-2 months of age and 6-18 months of age.
As a result, many (but not all) hospitals have adopted this policy. Because this will happen while you’re still in the hospital, it’s a good idea to know what your feelings are on giving the vaccine before delivery, if possible.
Hepatitis B, or hep B, is a disease of the liver caused by a virus. The virus gains access into your body through infected blood or body fluids and can be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery. If you received prenatal care, you were screened for hepatitis B very early in your pregnancy, and some hospitals screen you again at delivery.
Hepatitis B can cause both an immediate and long-term infection. In the long run, hepatitis B leads to severe liver disease, including cancer and death. The vaccine was previously given to people working in high-risk situations, such as hospitals. However, we now know that the best way to decrease lifetime risk of hepatitis B is to immunize during infancy.
The vaccine is usually very well tolerated. Soreness and fever are the most common side effects. Your doctor will want to hear about any side effects you note after your baby’s vaccination.
If your hospital or birth center does not routinely give hepatitis B at birth, your child’s pediatrician or family doctor can give the first dose at an early check-up without worry.
- American Academy of Pediatrics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Hepatitis B.
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