Pregnancy and HIV: Taking Care of Your Baby

A woman who has HIV can pass the virus to her baby during

  • Pregnancy

  • Delivery

  • Breastfeeding

If you are pregnant and have HIV there are medicines that you should take during pregnancy, labour, and delivery and medicines that you can give to your baby that can greatly reduce the chance of him or her getting HIV.

If you are planning to have a baby, it is best for you to do a test for HIV before you get pregnant so that you can know your status and make good decisions.

If you are already pregnant, then you should still undertake the test to check your status. If you are HIV positive then you can start taking the medications early and reduce the chance of your baby getting HIV.

Once you take the medications you can reduce the chance of your baby getting the virus to 1 in 12.

If you have HIV and don’t take the medications, then there is a 1 in 4 chance that your baby will get the virus.

If you have HIV and are pregnant then to get the most benefits from the medications and reduce the chance of your baby getting the virus:

  • You should talk to your doctor as early as possible about when to start taking the medications. It is important to take the right doses at the right time, every day. 
  • Continue to take the right medications during labour and delivery. Even if you took medications during pregnancy you have to continue to take the medications that your doctor recommends during labour and delivery.
  • You should also try to get to the hospital early in labour so that there will enough time to take all the right medications before the baby is born. 

  • You should ensure that your baby is given the medications right after birth. Whether you took medications during pregnancy or not, it is important that your baby be given the right medications right after birth to reduce the chance of him or her getting the virus. 

  • You should discuss with your doctor plans to ensure that your baby get the medications right after birth.

    Studies have shown that having a C-section (Caesarean section) before labour also reduces the chances of your baby getting HIV by half. C-sections are most beneficial to those women who have not taken any medication during pregnancy and have a high viral load.

Breastfeeding

HIV can also be passed by breast milk. If a woman with HIV breast feeds her baby, then there is a chance that the virus can pass to the baby. There are other alternatives to breast milk in such cases. Talk to your doctor to find out what will be best for you and your baby.