In the United States, about 15,000 children have been infected with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Around 3,000 of them died of the disease, and 90% of them became infected during pregnancy or birth, which is called perinatal transmission. So, if you’re HIV positive and you’re pregnant, you have reasonable cause for concern.
There’s good news, though. Current treatment protocols have reduced the likelihood of perinatal transmission to less than 1%. The highly trained and qualified providers at Advanced Women’s Healthcare can guide you through what you need to do to lower your chances of transmitting HIV to your baby and have a successful high-risk pregnancy.
Before we talk about how to protect your baby, we should discuss what HIV is, what AIDS is, and what you should know about treatment. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It’s the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, more commonly called AIDS.
You can have HIV for many years before it develops into AIDS. You may not even know you have HIV, which is one reason you should be tested regularly if there’s any chance at all you’ve been exposed.
If you know that you have HIV, you can be treated for it. There’s no cure, but treatment can keep you healthy for a very long time, and it can lower the possibility that you pass the virus to others.
Even if you’re only planning to get pregnant and aren’t yet, you should be tested. The earlier you begin treatment, the better. If you test negative, but you and your partner do things that raise your risk of exposure, get tested again during your pregnancy. It’s also wise for your partner to get tested.
If your partner is HIV positive and you want to get pregnant, you should talk to your provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP could help protect you while you try to get pregnant and your baby if you do. It’s an option for some people while they try to become pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
If you are HIV positive
Taking your HIV medicine as it is prescribed is one of the most important things you can do if you’re HIV positive and pregnant. We may also suggest giving your baby HIV medicine for four to six weeks.
In some cases, it may be safer for you to have a Caesarean delivery, especially if your viral load is high. If you’re HIV positive, you should avoid breastfeeding, because you could pass the infection to your baby.
Until the early 1990s, pregnancy while HIV positive meant your baby was most likely going to contract your infection. Now, if you follow the advice of your doctors and take your medication without interruption, there’s far less chance of your baby becoming infected.
If you don’t know your HIV/AIDS status, schedule an appointment with us, or if you’re planning to become pregnant and you have questions regarding your or your partner’s HIV status, schedule an appointment. We’re happy to answer your questions.