The Alfred Hospital, Monash Medical Centre and the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of hepatitis B virus continues to occur despite the interventions of hepatitis B vaccination and immunoglobulin. The most significant risk factor in transmission is high maternal viral load. Being aware of viral replicative activity permits risk stratification and allows the opportunity for additional preventative measures such as antiviral therapy.
Retrospective audit of investigations and clinical management among hepatitis B surface antigen-positive pregnant women from three maternity services across Victoria over a five-year period from 2006 to 2011.
Over the study period at the three institutions, there were 46,855 births, and 398 hepatitis B-positive pregnant women. 87% of the women were non-Australian-born. Viral load testing was performed in <20% of all pregnancies, and hepatitis B e antigen status assessed in 33%. Only 18% of the women with hepatitis B were referred for specialist care, but if referred, they were more likely to have an assessment of viral replicative status performed. Compliance with administration of neonatal hepatitis B immunoglobulin and birth-dose vaccination was high (>90%).
There is scope for considerable improvement in referral and assessment of pregnant women with hepatitis B infection. Guidelines addressing the issue of maternal viral replicative status and the need for antiviral therapy may assist in guiding clinical management.