USPSTF Recommends Screening for Hepatitis B in Pregnant Women

Suggests Screening for HBV at First Prenatal Visit

September 20, 2019

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published its final recommendation statement on hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in pregnant women. The USPSTF recommends screening for HBV infection in pregnant women at their first prenatal visit.

Screening for HBV infection during pregnancy identifies women whose infants are at risk of perinatal transmission. Data from a nationally representative sample showed a prevalence of maternal HBV infection of 85.8 cases per 100,000 deliveries from 1998 to 2011 (0.09% of live-born singleton deliveries in the United States).12 Although there are guidelines for universal infant HBV vaccination, rates of maternal HBV infection have increased annually by 5.5% since 1998.12 Persons infected with HBV during infancy or childhood are more likely to develop chronic infection. Chronic HBV infection increases long-term morbidity and mortality by predisposing infected persons to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

In 2009, the USPSTF reviewed the evidence for screening for HBV infection in pregnant women and issued an A recommendation.3 The USPSTF has decided to use a reaffirmation deliberation process to update this recommendation. The USPSTF uses the reaffirmation process for well-established, evidence-based standards of practice in current primary care practice for which only a very high level of evidence would justify a change in the grade of the recommendation.4 In its deliberation of the evidence, the USPSTF considers whether the new evidence is of sufficient strength and quality to change its previous conclusions about the evidence.

The USPSTF previously reviewed the evidence on serologic testing for HBV (hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg]) in pregnancy and found adequate evidence of its accuracy (sensitivity and specificity both >98%).

Benefits of Early Detection and Intervention
The USPSTF found convincing evidence that universal prenatal screening for HBV infection substantially reduces perinatal transmission of HBV and the subsequent development of chronic HBV infection. The USPSTF found adequate evidence that vaccination of all infants against HBV infection and providing postexposure prophylaxis with hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) at birth to infants of mothers infected with HBV substantially reduce the risk for acquisition of HBV infection in infants.

Harms of Screening and Interventions
The USPSTF found limited evidence on the harms of screening for HBV infection in pregnant women but bounded the potential harms of screening as no greater than small based on the high accuracy of screening and the low likelihood of harms from preventive interventions.

 USPSTF Assessment
Using a reaffirmation process, the USPSTF concludes with high certainty that the net benefit of screening for HBV infection in pregnant women is substantial.

 More Resources
Screening for Hepatitis B Infection in Pregnant Women: Updated Evidence Report
USPSTF Reaffirmation Recommendation Statement
CDC Requests PAs’ Assistance Responding to Hepatitis A Outbreaks