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HIV treatment during pregnancy

pregnant african woman

If you are already taking anti-HIV drugs and you have an undetectable viral load, you’ll normally continue with your treatment throughout the pregnancy.

HIV treatment is a crucial way for a woman living with HIV to prevent passing the virus on to her baby during pregnancy or birth (this is called 'mother-to-child transmission' or MTCT).

Is it ok to take HIV treatment during pregnancy?

If you were diagnosed before becoming pregnant, you’re most likely already taking antiretroviral medication. As per the British HIV Association’s (BHIVA) new treatment guidelines, everyone should now begin treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis.

If you have just been diagnosed and are not yet on HIV treatment, you’ll be advised to start it straight away, in the same way you would if you weren’t pregnant.

Your doctor will advise you on what treatment you should take, as some drugs are safer than others. After the baby is born, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need to change your treatment or not.

The drug recommendations for women who have been diagnosed later on in their pregnancy are slightly different, and in this case you'll be advised by your doctor.

Will I have to have a Caesarean delivery?

If your viral load is high you’ll need to have a Caesarean delivery.

If you are on treatment and undetectable, you should be able to have a vaginal delivery.

Are antiretrovirals safe for my baby?

Research and experience suggest that anti-HIV drugs are safe to use in pregnancy.

There may be a slightly increased risk of giving birth prematurely or having a low birth-weight baby. However, other research suggests antiretrovirals don’t contribute to premature births.

The benefits antiretrovirals have in preventing mother-to-baby transmission outweigh the risks of not taking them.

How likely is it that my baby will be HIV positive?

There are four interventions which can reduce the risk of your child being born with HIV to below 1%:

  1. taking antiretroviral treatment during your pregnancy
  2. having a Caesarean delivery if your viral load is high
  3. not breastfeeding
  4. giving your baby a short course of antiretrovirals for four weeks after birth.

Next: Preventing mother-to-baby transmission ››

‹‹ Back to: Thinking about having a baby



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/6/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 2/6/2019

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Kerri Virani

More information:

Pregnancy booklet, Selina Corkery, NAM aidsmap, 2014

HIV and having a baby, Greta Hughson, NAM aidsmap, 2015

New British guidelines recommend treatment for everyone with HIV by Keith Alcorn, 24 June 2015, NAM

de Ruiter A et al. Guidelines for the management of HIV infection in pregnant women 2012 (updated May 2014) BHIVA, 2014

Townsend C et al. Low rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV following effective pregnancy interventions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 2000-2006. AIDS 22: 973-981, 2008