Hepatitis B Vaccine for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women at risk for hepatitis B may have new vaccine protocol

(RxWiki News) When women become pregnant, they often focus their energies on making sure their fetus is as healthy as possible. However, by delaying vaccination for hepatitis B (HBV) while pregnant, women may be putting their own health at risk.

A hepatitis B vaccination schedule over a 12 week period for high-risk pregnant women has been established by researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) which they find to be effective and nicely tolerated.

Normally, a three-shot HBV vaccine regimen given over a six-month period is prescribed for adults. This long established recommendation is difficult to successfully implement  for high-risk pregnant women because follow-up is difficult. 

"If pregnant, ask your ob/gyn if you need the HBV vaccine."

Jeanne Sheffield, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study reports the HBV vaccine is rarely offered to reproductive-aged women because physician and patient education is lacking. Patient fear of the vaccination and its side-effects in addition to an overall reluctance by physicians to vaccinate pregnant women are some of the reasons for not immunizing women in their childbearing years.

Dr. Sheffield continues to report that the new series has been shown to be effective during pregnancy. UT Southwestern has received numerous requests for a specific protocol to guide physicians who see those high-risk patients because they are interested in implementing a vaccination program.

The vaccine has been quite well-tolerated in the pregnant women in this study. Additionally, there were no serious adverse events reported explains Dr. Sheffield. Their initial reservations concerning a pregnant woman's ability to produce an effective immune response was largely unfounded.

In this current study, conducted at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, TX over a six year period, researchers enrolled high-risk women who were currently found to have a sexually-transmitted disease, injection drug use or both.  200 women were enrolled and 168 of those women received all three doses of the vaccine.

Maternal age, tobacco use, race, alcohol use, and gestational age at first vaccination did not negatively affect  the development of antibodies against HBV. Obesity did negatively impact results, though. The study records no increase in neonatal intensive care admissions or preterm delivery rates.

The findings appear in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Review Date: 
June 27, 2011