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HIV and Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, it's important to get tested for HIV as soon as possible. If you find out that do have HIV, you can start treatment right away to protect your health and the health of your baby.

If I have HIV, can I pass it on to my baby during pregnancy?

If you are pregnant and have HIV, there is a risk of passing HIV to your baby. It can happen in three ways:

  • During pregnancy
  • During childbirth, especially if it is vaginal childbirth
  • During breastfeeding

But having HIV doesn't mean that you can't have children. Treatment with a combination of HIV medicines can help prevent passing HIV to your baby and protect your own health.

If I have HIV, how can I prevent giving it to my baby?

There are several different steps you can take to help prevent passing HIV to your baby:

  • Taking HIV medicines. HIV medicines reduce the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) to a very low level. The goal is to get your viral load so low that a standard lab test can't detect it. This is called having an "undetectable viral load." Having an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy and prevent your baby from getting HIV. These medicines will also help protect your health. Most HIV medicines are safe to use during pregnancy. They don't usually raise the risk of birth defects. But it is important to talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of the different medicines. Together you can decide which medicines are right for you. Then you need to make sure you take your medicines regularly.
  • If needed, having a cesarean delivery. If your viral load is not reduced enough by the medicines, having a cesarean delivery (C-Section) can help prevent passing HIV to your baby.
  • Giving HIV medicines to the baby. Your baby will get HIV medicines as soon as possible after birth. The medicines protect your baby from infection from any HIV that passed from you during childbirth. Which medicine your baby gets depends on several factors, including what your viral load was just before you gave birth. Your baby will need to take medicines for 4 to 6 weeks. He or she will get several HIV tests over the first few months.
  • Not breastfeeding. Breast milk can have HIV in it. In the United States, infant formula is safe and readily available. So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that if you have HIV, you should feed your baby formula instead of breastfeeding.
What if I want to get pregnant and my partner has HIV?

If you are trying to get pregnant, it's important for your partner to also get tested for HIV.

If your partner does have HIV and you do not, talk to your provider about taking PrEP. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. This means taking medicines to prevent HIV. The PrEP helps to protect both you and your baby from HIV.