Background: Mother-to-infant transmission is the leading cause of childhood hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, with up to 4000 new cases each year in the United States.
Purpose: To evaluate effects of mode of delivery, labor management strategies, and breastfeeding practices on risk for mother-to-infant transmission of HCV.
Data sources: MEDLINE (1947 to May 2012), the Cochrane Library Database, clinical trial registries, and reference lists.
Study selection: Randomized trials and observational studies on mode of delivery, labor management strategies, and breastfeeding practices and risk for mother-to-infant transmission of HCV.
Data extraction: Investigators abstracted and reviewed study details and quality using predefined criteria.
Data synthesis: Eighteen observational studies evaluated the association between mode of delivery, labor management strategies, or breastfeeding practices and risk for mother-to-infant HCV transmission. Fourteen studies (2 good-quality, 4 fair-quality, and 8 poor-quality studies) found no clear association between mode of delivery (vaginal versus cesarean delivery) and risk for transmission. Two studies (1 good-quality and 1 poor-quality study) reported an association between prolonged duration of ruptured membranes and increased risk for transmission. Fourteen studies (2 good-quality, 2 fair-quality, and 10 poor-quality studies) found no association between breastfeeding and risk for transmission.
Limitations: Only English-language articles were included. Studies were observational, and most had important methodological shortcomings, including failure to adjust for potential confounders and small sample sizes.
Conclusion: No intervention has been clearly demonstrated to reduce the risk for mother-to-infant HCV transmission. Avoidance of breastfeeding does not seem to be indicated for reducing transmission risk.
Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.