Antiviral Treatment for Women with HCV Could Improve Their Fertility

Link between Hepatitis C and infertility, study finds

A recent study found that the successful treatment of women infected with hepatitis C (HCV) helped to improve fertility and reduce risks associated with pregnancy and HCV. That might be a bit hard to swallow, so let's break it down. 

What exactly is hepatitis C? 

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that spreads through contaminated blood. HCV causes inflammation of the liver. If left untreated, HCV could lead to severe liver damage. Fortunately, HCV is usually curable with oral medications that must be taken daily every day for anywhere between two and six months. 

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

HCV doesn't usually present many symptoms, which is why it is recommended by the Center for Disease Control to have a blood test if you are high risk for the infection. Symptoms can appear if the damage is severe enough. These symptoms include:

  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes)
  • Appetite or weight loss
  • Dark-colored urine

You are high risk for HCV if:

  • You've been exposed to infected blood
  • You have HIV
  • You've been to prison
  • You received a blood or organ transfusion before 1992
  • You use illicit drugs

HCV can put women at an increased risk for infertility and health problems during pregnancy. Additionally, because HCV can be passed on from a mother to a child, it's important to know if you have it before you try to get pregnant so you can be treated. 

The Study

For the study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, Italian and American researchers examined thousands of women. 

The study found that women with HCV had a higher chance of miscarrying than women who were not infected with the disease or infected with hepatitis B (hepatitis B can be prevented through vaccination). It also found that women with HCV were more likely to be infertile and were less likely to have live births. 

Now here's the good news: the study found that successful antiviral treatment significantly reduced the risk of both infertility and miscarriages. 

While HCV can be treated, it is important for both you and your future children that you know about it as soon as possible. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be at risk. And while you're at it, yearly STD testing is a good idea for any sexually active person. We know you want you and your family to be as healthy as possible.

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