All Pregnant Women Should Be Screened for Hepatitis B

Preventing perinatal Hepatitis B transmission is an integral part of the national strategy to eliminate hepatitis B

pregnant couple

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a ‘draft’ recommendation which reaffirms its 2009 conclusion that there is ‘convincing evidence that screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in pregnant women provides substantial benefit.’ 

This USPSTF recommendation has an ‘A’ rating and says pregnant women should be screened for hepatitis B at their first prenatal visit to avoid transmitting the disease to their future children. 

This is important news since only 84–88 percent of pregnant women are screened for HBV infection, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

When babies become infected with hepatitis B from their mothers, they have a 90 percent chance of developing lifelong chronic infections, such as liver disease and liver cancer, says the CDC. 

Screening for hepatitis B in pregnancy has been a standard of care for more than 30 years. 

Task Force member Melissa A Simon, M.D., M.P.H, said in a press release, “Since 1998, rates of maternal hepatitis B virus have increased annually by 5.5 percent.” 

“With early screening, we can treat pregnant individuals and substantially reduce transmission of the virus to their babies.” 

Recommended:

“In children, the primary source of hepatitis B infection is transmission at birth from an infected mother,” added Task Force member Alex Kemper, M.D., M.P.H., M.S. 

“But we know that screening for hepatitis B in pregnant women can keep babies from getting the virus and prevent the onset of potentially lifelong serious health problems.” 

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that can cause a number of chronic conditions, such as liver disease or liver cancer. About 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis B, says the CDC. 

To prevent pregnant women with hepatitis B from transmitting it to their baby, there is an effective vaccine and preventive medication that can be given to the infant within 12 hours of birth. 

Preventing perinatal HBV transmission is an integral part of the national strategy to eliminate hepatitis B in the United States, says the CDC. 

This draft is available for public comment through February 4, 2019.