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Gut. 2000 Aug;47(2):277-80.

Prevalence of hepatitis C among pregnant women attending an inner London obstetric department: uptake and acceptability of named antenatal testing.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London, UK.



To examine the value of universal antenatal screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among an inner London population, with regard to prevalence, uptake, and acceptability of testing, and identification of new cases.


Serum analysis for antibodies against HCV in pregnant women following informed consent ("opt out" policy). Samples positive for HCV antibodies were tested for the presence of HCV RNA by polymerase chain reaction. Information on hepatitis C was provided for all women. Acceptability of antenatal HCV testing and identification of risk factors for infection were assessed through the use of questionnaires randomly distributed among a cohort of 300 pregnant women.


Antenatal clinics at St Mary's Hospital, London, serving a multiethnic population.


A total of 4825 pregnant women booking for antenatal care between November 1997 and April 1999.


The overall prevalence of anti-HCV was 0.8% and HCV viraemia was 0.6%. Ninety eight per cent of samples (n=4729) were tested; 0.2% of women had a false positive result. In 207 women who completed a questionnaire regarding our testing policy, 84% made a positive decision to be tested for anti-HCV and 92% said that HCV testing should be offered to all pregnant women. The majority (22/32-69%) of HCV infected women were newly diagnosed and although HCV positive women were significantly more likely to have a history of drug abuse, most (16/22-73%) new cases had no identified risk factors for HCV infection at booking.


The prevalence of anti-HCV in an inner London multiethnic antenatal population is high (0.8%). Routine screening for HCV is acceptable to pregnant women. The majority of women diagnosed during their current pregnancy would not have been identified as HCV infected by epidemiological risk factors at the time of booking.

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