This following is from the HepCBC pamphlet, HCV & Pregnancy. The information
was vetted by the BCCDC
Reducing the Risk of Transmission During and After Pregnancy
A woman living with Hep C who wishes to become pregnant may have particular
anxieties about the health of her baby. The chance of the virus being
transmitted to the baby is 5-10%, and higher in persons who have HIV as
well. If a mother also has AIDS, the chances can increase up to 36 in
100. The risk may be even greater in mothers who are infected with both
Hep B and Hep C.
Transmission to the baby can happen before or during birth. In parts of the
world with lower standards of general health, transmission from a woman
with Hep C to her baby is more likely. Most doctors and midwives will be
helpful and supportive to a woman with Hep C who wants a child. Pregnancy
with Hep C is not officially discouraged.
Viral Load and Mother-to-Baby Transmission
Viral load is the amount of Hep C in the blood. If a woman with Hep C has low
viral load (less than 1 million copies/mL), it is less likely that the
virus will be passed to her baby than if she has high viral
load. However, even if viral load is very low, there is still a chance
that Hep C will be transmitted.
Given the low risk of transmission from mother to infant there is not enough
information at present regarding the use of Caesarean sections to reduce
the risk of transmission. However, it is possible that if a woman has an
acute case of Hep C, there is more of a risk of her baby being infected.
It is not yet known whether the breast milk of a woman with Hep C contains
enough virus to infect a baby during breast feeding. Generally, women
with Hep C are not advised to avoid breast feeding. No studies have
documented transmission of Hep C infection to infants by breast-feeding.
Children with Hep C (See also II.8.0 How Does HCV Affect Children?)
In children, viral infection is usually silent, although children as young as 8
years old can become quite ill from HCV.
Children are less likely than adults to have symptoms of infection with
Hepatitis C, and thus may be able to transmit the virus unknowingly.
Having hepatitis C does not seem to affect a child’s growth.
All children, with or without hepatitis C, should be taught proper hygiene.
Children and Advanced Liver Disease
Chronic hepatitis C eventually causes cirrhosis or cancer. However, it can take
10 to 20 years or more before cirrhosis may occur. Liver cancer rarely
occurs in children.
Treatment in Children
Few studies exist examining interferon (IFN) use in children with chronic
HCV. A recent study suggests that IFN therapy may benefit children with
chronic HCV, and indeed, children may respond better than adults,
possibly because they have been infected for less time and have a milder
disease. Interferon is used in children only in clinical trials in Canada
at this time. Another drug, called ribavirin, is being used in
combination with IFN in adults and may be recommended for children in the
There are still many questions about Hepatitis C in children. More studies are
necessary to learn more about how the disease progresses and about
Talking to Health Care Workers
Doctors and midwives can be helpful and supportive to a woman with Hep C who wants a child. It can be very hard for a woman with Hep C to tell her health care workers she is pregnant or wants to be, if she suspects they will try to change her mind. Staff with experience of working with women who have Hep C are likely to be the best informed and most supportive.