Universal Hepatitis C Screening Among Pregnant Persons: The Time is Now: Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported blood-borne infection in the US, responsible for more deaths than all 60 reportable infectious diseases combined. Once most prevalent among “Baby Boomers” or those born between 1945 and 1965, the current hepatitis C burden disproportionately affects young adults who inject drugs, including women of childbearing age. Because of this epidemiological shift, perinatal transmission – which happens when a pregnant person living with hepatitis C passes it to their baby either within the uterus or during labor – is also on the rise. Approximately 6% of infants born to people with hepatitis C will become infected.
Given the increased prevalence of hepatitis C among women of childbearing age, more people with hepatitis C will become pregnant and for many of them, obstetric care will be their primary encounter with the health system. Hepatitis C screening during pregnancy presents an opportunity for early identification as well as dialogue between pregnant people and their clinicians about transmission and risk. In a sense, pregnancy presents an ideal opportunity to diagnose hepatitis C among pregnant people, link them to care and refer them to treatment. Tackling hepatitis C among women, and during pregnancy in particular, is critical to achieving the New York State Hepatitis C Elimination Plan’s goal to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health problem in the state by 2030.