Women’s liver health

September 7, 2021

In support of Women’s Health Week to help improve women’s health and help women make healthy choices, here are some key issues that women need to consider for their liver health.

Women are drinking more during COVID-19

Since the pandemic, women in particular have been consuming more alcohol putting themselves at risk of alcohol related liver disease.

Australian women are consuming more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic: Read

Hepatitis B

  • Pregnancy and transmission – the risk of a mother passing hepatitis B to her  baby during pregnancy is high.
  • Hepatitis B raises the  risk of pregnancy complications. Doctors can advise on  taking hepatitis B medicine to lower the risk of passing hepatitis B from mother to  baby.
  • Certain hepatitis B medicines are safe to take during pregnancy but are not recommended for everyone
  • Contraception – women with severe liver damage may not be able to use certain types of contraception because a damaged liver may have problems breaking down oestrogen
  • Breastfeeding is encouraged
  • View our video Ayanda is pregnant.

Hepatitis C

  • Younger women – research shows the hormone oestrogen may help protect the liver from damage.
  •  Acute (short-term) hepatitis C goes away on its own more often for younger women than men. Also, in women with chronic hepatitis C, liver damage usually happens more slowly than it does for men.
  • Menstrual cycles. The risk of spreading hepatitis C is higher during menstrual periods, due to the fact it’s transmitted by blood.
  • Shorter periods or menstrual cycles can result from  hepatitis C medication.
  • Contraceptivesa damaged liver may not be able to break down oestrogens, so some contraceptives may be unsuitable for women with hepatitis C
  • Pregnancy – Experts think the risk of passing hepatitis C to your baby during pregnancy is low
  • But hepatitis C raises the  risk for pregnancy complications such as premature birth and gestational diabetes
  • Some hepatitis C medicines can also cause serious harm to your baby if taken during pregnancy, it’s important to discuss your pregnancy with your doctor.
  • Menopause – liver damage happens more quickly for women after menopause. Hepatitis C medicines also may not work as well for women after menopause as they do for men.

Perinatal care for women living with hepatitis B in Victoria

LiverWELL is proud to have been a part of the Doherty led study around perinatal care for women living with hepatitis B in Victoria.

The study involved a community stream, data linkage and system mapping, and revealed there is more work to be done to improve outcomes for women living with hepatitis B in perinatal care in Victoria.

Thank you to LiverWELL volunteer, Anna Alex, for contributing to the research for this article.

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LiverWELL observes and honours the Kulin Nation's intrinsic connection to land, sky and water, and the creator Bunjil. LiverWELL is committed to being led and informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on bridging health outcomes for communities and improving liver health.