Pregnant women with hepatitis C virus (HCV) often wonder what the chances are they’ll transmit this disease to their child. If a woman has hep C, which may damage the liver, the chance she’ll pass the disease to her baby is rare. Still, about 6 out of every 100 infants born to mothers with hepatitis C become infected with the virus, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (What’s more, the risk becomes greater if the mother has both HIV and hepatitis C.)

For women with hep C who aren’t yet pregnant, Camilla S. Graham, MD, MPH, the co-director of the Viral Hepatitis Center in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, encourages them to “go ahead and get treatment and get cured” before they decide to have a child. Also, if a woman with hep C is already pregnant, doctors won’t start treatment because this might be risky for her unborn child.

Any ob/gyn should know how to implement safeguards to reduce the risk of a mom-to-be with hep C transmitting the virus to her baby. But, stresses Graham, “I really try to encourage women to go ahead and get tested and treated before becoming pregnant.”