Pregnancy and Aids
Women with HIV should know that there is risk of transmission from them to their baby. But, with proper knowledge and care, they can protect their baby and also lead a happy and safe life.
What is HIV/Aids?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV slowly destroys the body’s immune system and ability to fight infections or illnesses. An infection or health issue that a healthy person would be able to fight off can be life threatening to someone with AIDS. A person can be HIV positive but not have AIDS – AIDS can take 10 years or more to develop.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are 1.1 million people in the U.S. infected with HIV. There are about 540,000 new infections each year, 25 percent of which are women. Without proper treatment, there is approximately a 25% chance of infecting a baby. However, if you get proper treatment during pregnancy, the risk drops to less than 1 percent.
Approximately 18% of the population with HIV is unaware they are HIV positive. If you are pregnant, you should get tested for HIV. You should also let your doctor know right away if you are HIV positive and become pregnant. If you are taking HIV medicine, you should continue to do so during pregnancy. If you are not, you should start as soon as possible.
An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby in three ways:
- During pregnancy
- During vaginal childbirth
- Through breastfeeding
An HIV positive mother is at risk for pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and stillbirth. There are several ways that mothers increase the risk of transmission:
- Substance abuse
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Infections – STDs
- Stage of HIV
- Factors related to labor and childbirth
Many doctors recommend a Cesarean section performed before labor and the rupture of membranes to significantly reduce the risk of transmission. Babies born to mothers with HIV should be tested for the disease right after birth and treatment should begin right away. This may require a number of tests and you may not get conclusive results until the baby is a few months old. Research shows that babies benefit from anti-HIV medicines, even before knowing if the baby is infected. This treatment lasts about 4 – 6 weeks.