Houston health department

Perinatal Hepatitis B prevention

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. For some people, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness but for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection. Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2%?6% of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in a pregnant woman poses a serious risk to her infant at birth. Without postexposure immunoprophylaxis, approximately 40% of infants born to HBV-infected mothers in the United States will develop chronic HBV infection, approximately one-fourth of whom will eventually die from chronic liver disease. Perinatal HBV transmission can be prevented by identifying HBV-infected (i.e., hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg]-positive) pregnant women and providing hepatitis B immune globulin and hepatitis B vaccine to their infants within 12 hours of birth

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimated that in 2013 between 1,059 and 1,503 infants were born to women infected with hepatitis B. However, only 562 cases were reported to the Department of State Health Services.


Perinatal Hepatitis B is preventable by:

  • Screening pregnant women at the first prenatal visit and at delivery
  • Giving the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine and HBIG to babies born to HBsAg- positive women within 12 hours of delivery
  • Giving the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine to all babies before hospital discharge

The purpose of the Hepatitis B Prevention Program is to:

  • Identify hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive pregnant women;
  • Ensure that infants of HBsAg-positive pregnant women receive hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine at birth;
  • Ensure that infants complete the hepatitis B vaccine series and serological testing;
  • Identify household and sexual contacts to HBsAg positive mothers;
  • Vaccinate at risk contacts and conduct serological testing.
For more information, visit the DSHS Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program