Care programme for prospective parents with an infectious disease
The CRG of UZ Brussel has a worldwide reputation for its expertise in Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) and all related treatments.
In our work, patient care is key and over the years we have always paid a great deal of attention to improving – in terms of comfort and effectiveness – our treatments.
Based on this philosophy, we have developed an appropriate treatment plan (or care programme) for prospective parents with an infectious disease.
Whether you are a man or a woman who is infected, or perhaps you are both infected, it is possible to bring a healthy child into the world.
Care programme for hepatitis C
There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.
To keep the risk of infection during sexual contact as low as possible, we generally recommend the use of condoms.
Hepatitis C is a viral condition which infects the liver.
The infection is mainly transmitted by contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. The main sources of infection are:
- infected material (e.g. needles) during intravenous drug use, when performing tattoos, piercings or acupuncture;
- unscreened blood or blood products (e.g. during transfusions), and
- the bodily fluids exchanged during sexual intercourse.
Hepatitis C is not spread via food or water nor by chance-contact such as cuddling, kissing or sharing food or drink with an infected person.
Apart from the aforementioned ways - exchange of infected bodily fluids and blood - transmission of hepatitis C is also possible via infected eggs, sperm and embryos.
Hence the legal obligation of fertility centres to test for infection every three months over the course of an ART treatment.
A baby is exposed to the risk of infection during birth by contact with blood or other bodily fluids from the mother. The risk of transmission via the placenta during pregnancy is, although very low, not impossible.
If the blood test for infections performed before the ART treatment reveals that you have a positive viral load, you will first be prescribed a treatment against hepatitis C. As the medication that you will be given for this is toxic, you can only start the fertility treatment after a few months.
As soon as the hepatitis C is under control and the toxic effect of the medication has worn off, any ART treatment is possible: IUI, IVF or ICSI.
Which method is best for you depends on your fertility problem. The CRG doctor who is treating you will discuss your options your consultation.
Transmission from the mother to the foetus is rare. This risk is mainly limited to patients who are also infected with HIV.
The risk of transmission of the virus to the baby is greatest during delivery. As soon as the waters break, the baby comes into contact with the virus present in the mother’s body.
The more virus there is in the body and the longer the baby is exposed to it, the greater the risk of transmission.
The presence of a hepatitis C infection does not affect the type of delivery. Both a vaginal delivery and a caesarean section are possible.
As there is no vaccine against hepatitis C, the baby cannot be immunised. We will test him or her for the presence of the virus six months after birth.
During the preliminary tests we check whether you are a carrier of the virus or have active hepatitis, and whether there is any liver damage.
If you have active hepatitis, you may have to be treated first.
For each ART treatment, your sperm will undergo a (standard) washing procedure. As a result of this, the risk of transmission to the child is considerably reduced.
During pregnancy and delivery, and after birth
A hepatitis C infection in the man has no effect on the course of pregnancy and birth, or during the period following birth.
However, if there is an active hepatitis C infection, you need additional protection during intercourse since your partner cannot be vaccinated.