HIV and Pregnancy
There are good reasons to get an HIV test if you are pregnant or thinking about having a baby. Knowing whether you have HIV can help you decide how to protect your baby.
It is recommended that pregnant people be tested for HIV as part of their routine prenatal care, so talk with your healthcare provider or health department about getting an HIV test. If you find out you don’t have HIV, you can take steps to make sure you don’t get it. If you find out you do have HIV, you can take medicine to lower the risk of passing the virus to the baby.
A large percentage of infected infants become infected late in pregnancy or during delivery, so getting tested and starting treatment early in pregnancy can reduce the risk of a HIV-infected mother transmitting the disease to the unborn child and slow down the progression of HIV disease in the mother.
Preventing HIV Transmission During Pregnancy
Most cases of babies getting HIV are through labor and delivery. There is less chance for the baby to get HIV if you have a cesarean delivery (C-section) so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your delivery options.
Without treatment or breastfeeding about 25% (1 in 4) of pregnant women with HIV pass on HIV to their babies. But if the pregnant person takes antiviral medication before and during birth, and their babies are given medication after birth, HIV transmission is reduced from 25% to less than 2%.
All babies who are born to HIV-positive mothers will test positive for having HIV antibodies because the antibodies are given from the mother to the baby while the baby is still in the womb. This does not mean that the baby has HIV and the antibodies should clear between 6 and 18 months of age.
More Steps to Prevent Infection
- Talk with your partner about HIV and STIs. Talk about ways to protect the baby’s health. You may want to ask your partner to get tested for HIV and STIs.
- If your partner has not been tested for HIV and STIs, talk about using condoms for vaginal, anal and oral sex. Even if you had sex without condoms in the past, it may be wise to use them now.
- Don’t shoot drugs or share works (needles). If you do shoot drugs, wash your needle with bleach before each use. You can call the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-4357) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for referrals to local treatment facilities and support groups.
It is important that pregnant women understand that testing is for the benefit of their child. Pregnant women should feel comfortable talking with their doctors about their status and should create a treatment, delivery, and breastfeeding plan that both the healthcare provider and the mother feel comfortable with.