If you discover that you are HIV positive while you are pregnant, taking anti-HIV drugs can dramatically reduce the risk of you passing on HIV to your baby.
Discovering that you are HIV positive while you are pregnant can be a shock. As well as the emotions and questions you will have about your diagnosis, you will also have questions about what it means for your baby.
Our Parenthood section has extensive information about all stages of pregnancy for HIV-positive mothers-to-be.
As long as several conditions are met, the chances are extremely low. Transmission of HIV from mother to baby can be prevented by:
In the UK, because of high standards of care, the risk of HIV being passed from mother to baby is very low.
For women who are taking effective HIV treatment and who have an undetectable viral load when their baby is born, the risk of transmission to their baby is 0.1%, or one in 1,000.
Yes. In the UK it’s now recommended that everyone diagnosed with HIV starts treatment straight away – regardless of their CD4 count.
If you were diagnosed with HIV before you fell pregnant you are probably already taking treatment. Your doctor will advise you whether it needs to be changed at all.
If you are newly diagnosed during your pregnancy you will need to start taking treatment and will continue to take it after your pregnancy in line with the new BHIVA guidelines.
HIV treatment has two effects when you’re pregnant:
Research and experience suggest that anti-HIV drugs are safe to use in pregnancy - treatment during pregnancy is a very important part of preventing HIV being passed on to your baby.
If you’d like to have a vaginal delivery, you’ll need to:
You and your doctor should discuss your circumstances and preferences, and you should have time to ask questions.
Women in the UK are encouraged to prepare a birth plan, which is a record of your preferences for the birth, including the type of delivery you would prefer.
Your doctor will look at your viral load when you are 36 weeks pregnant and discuss options with you.
If you have an undetectable viral load, you can plan to have a vaginal delivery.
If your viral load is detectable, but very low (under 400), your doctor will look at your particular situation and discuss options with you.
If your viral load is above 400, it is recommended you have a planned Caesarean section.
Find out more about staying healthy during your pregnancy and increasing your chances of having a healthy, HIV negative child.
If you are diagnosed with HIV while pregnant, then you may need emotional support in coping with your diagnosis, as well as information about transmission and treatments. Positively UK is a charity providing support to people living with HIV and can offer you friendly advice and support.
Body and Soul also provide support for families and children who are living with or affected by HIV.
Visit our resource for HIV positive mothers-to-be for more information on all stages of your pregnancy and beyond.
You can also get help from our online peer support volunteers who run daily group sessions within our community forums.
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 21/4/2019
Content Author: Kerri Virani
Current Owner: Health Promotion
BHIVA guidelines for the treatment of HIV-1-positive adults with antiretroviral therapy 2015, Writing Group: Duncan Churchill Chair Laura Waters Vice Chair N Ahmed, B Angus, M Boffito, M Bower, D Dunn, S Edwards, C Emerson, S Fidler, †M Fisher, R Horne, S Khoo, C Leen, N Mackie, N Marshall, F Monteiro, M Nelson, C Orkin, A Palfreeman, S Pett, A Phillips, F Post, A Pozniak, I Reeves, C Sabin, R Trevelion, J Walsh, E Wilkins, I Williams, A Winston
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START trial finds that early treatment improves outcomes for people with HIV, by Gus Cairns, NAM, Aidsmap, May 2015
New British guidelines recommend treatment for everyone living with HIV, by Keith Alcorn, NAM, Aidsmap, June 2015
START trial provides definitive evidence of the benefits of early HIV treatment, by Liz Highleyman, produced in collaboration with hivandhepatitis.com, NAM, Aidsmap, July 2015
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Pamela talks about living with HIV.
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