Hepatitis B vaccine

Date: May 2022, Version 4.0

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver and can, in some people, lead to lasting liver damage and/or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is passed on through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, often via sexual contact or sharing needles to inject drugs. Healthcare and laboratory workers may also be at risk of catching hepatitis B through contact at work.

If a pregnant woman catches hepatitis B, the virus can pass from the mother to the baby in the womb, or during or after birth. Up to one in every three babies infected in this way will develop serious liver disease. Some (but not all) studies have also linked hepatitis B infection in pregnancy to preterm birth and low birth weight in the baby.

Hepatitis B occurs most commonly in parts of East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Amazon, parts of Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. It is less common in the UK. People travelling to these areas for lengthy periods or who may require medical care while travelling are considered to be at higher risk of hepatitis B infection.


What are the benefits of hepatitis B vaccination in pregnancy?

Hepatitis B vaccines reduce the risk of catching hepatitis B, and therefore complications from the virus to both the woman and her baby.


What are the risks of hepatitis B vaccination during pregnancy?

There are no known risks of being vaccinated against hepatitis B during pregnancy. The Department of Health in the UK recommends that hepatitis B vaccine can be given to pregnant women if required.


Are there any alternatives to hepatitis B vaccination in pregnancy?

For some pregnant women it may be possible to avoid exposure to hepatitis B virus by not travelling to certain areas or by adapting their work role. If these things are not possible, vaccination is advised.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to be vaccinated against hepatitis B in pregnancy?

Catching hepatitis B virus in pregnancy can lead to illness in the mother and lifelong complications for the baby. There is no evidence that the vaccine causes harm. Women who prefer not to be vaccinated should avoid exposure to hepatitis B virus (see section above). However, vaccination is strongly recommended where exposure cannot be avoided as there are clear benefits to both mother and baby. A doctor or midwife will be happy to discuss any concerns.

Will my baby need extra monitoring?

Women in the UK will be offered a detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of routine antenatal care. Vaccination against hepatitis B in pregnancy is not expected to cause problems that would require any extra monitoring of the baby.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has been vaccinated against hepatitis B?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father received a hepatitis B vaccination around the time of conception.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.