Prevalence and risk factors for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection were studied in 2,587 pregnant women from three rural Egyptian villages in the Nile Delta being admitted to a prospective cohort study of maternal-infant transmission; 408 (15.8%) had antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV) and 279 (10.8%) also had HCV-RNA. Fewer than 1% gave a history of jaundice or liver disease. Risk factors for anti-HCV included increasing age, low socioeconomic status and a history of blood transfusion or injection therapy for schistosomiasis. Sub-analyses after stratification of subjects by village revealed risks associated with specific venues for medical care, having a previous delivery attended by a traditional birth assistant (TBA), receiving medical care in a temporary clinic located in a mosque, overnight admission to a private doctor's clinic, and circumcision by a TBA or a 'health barber'. Our results suggest HCV causes very little detected illness in young adult Egyptian women and some sources of HCV transmission in rural Egypt in the past were associated with the provision of medical care and varied by location. Prevention should be focused on providing appropriate resources and health education should be given to formal and informal health care providers and should be sufficiently broad to adjust for local variations in exposures.