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HIV Guidelines during Pregnancy

HIV can affect the health of a woman in unique ways. You may get more infections or changes in your menstrual cycle. You may also get menopause symptoms earlier than other women. Knowing what to expect and taking care of yourself can help you live a healthy, full life.

HIV and Pregnancy

  • A pregnant woman living with HIV can pass on the virus to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, and through breastfeeding.
  • If you are a woman living with HIV, taking antiretroviral treatment correctly during pregnancy and breastfeeding can virtually eliminate the risk of passing on the virus to your baby.
  • Attending antenatal appointments means you can get tested for HIV and if needed receive treatment and medical advice to help keep you and your baby healthy.  

What Can You Do If You Are Pregnant and Have HIV?

  • Visit your health care provider regularly. 
  • Take HIV medications as prescribed to stay healthy, protect your partner, and protect your baby. Taking HIV medications lessens the amount of HIV in the body to a very low level. Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and help prevent transmission to your baby. 
  • The risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be less than 1% if you take HIV medicine as prescribed. Also, give your baby HIV medicine for 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. 
  • If your HIV viral load is not adequately reduced, a Cesarean delivery can also help prevent HIV transmission.  
  • Do not breastfeed or pre-chew your baby’s food. 

Protect Your Baby during Childbirth 

If you take your treatment correctly, it will lower the amount of HIV in your body. In some people, the amount of HIV in their bodies can be reduced to such low levels that it is said to be undetectable. This means that you can plan to have a vaginal delivery because the risk of passing on HIV to your baby during childbirth will be extremely small.

If you don’t have an undetectable viral load, you may be offered a cesarean section, as this carries a smaller risk of passing HIV to your baby than a vaginal delivery. If your HIV test result comes back positive, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby.

Taking HIV Medicine during Pregnancy 

  1. Pregnant women infected with HIV should take HIV medicines. It helps lower the risk of passing HIV to a baby and improves the mother’s health.
  2. If you haven’t used any HIV medications before pregnancy and are in your first trimester, your doctor will help you decide if you should start treatment.

Here are some things to consider: 

  • The medicine may affect your baby. Your doctor will prescribe medicine that is safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Nausea and vomiting may make it hard to take the HIV medicine early during pregnancy.
  • Studies show treatment works best at preventing HIV in a baby if it is started before pregnancy or as early as possible during pregnancy. 

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