HIV and Pregnancy - Topic Overview
United States Preventive Services Task Force, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of
Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend
that all pregnant women be screened for
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. This is
because early detection and treatment are the key to preventing newborn HIV
Although your health
professional may not offer an HIV test as part of your routine prenatal care,
it's a good idea to have one. If you have any risk factors for HIV infection,
your health professional may want to give you a second test later in your
If you or your partner has ever had unprotected sex (or
shared needles) with a person whose HIV status is unknown, there is a chance
that you have the virus. If you do have HIV, your baby could also become
infected. The virus is usually passed on during labor and childbirth,
although it sometimes is passed during pregnancy.
Breast-feeding can pass the virus from mother to baby.
Treatment with medicines called antiretrovirals, both during pregnancy and
after the birth, greatly reduces a baby's risk of HIV infection. Antiretroviral
medications prevent the virus from multiplying. When the amount of HIV in the
blood is minimized, the
immune system has a chance to recover and grow
- Antiretroviral treatment for the mother, during
the second and third
trimesters and during childbirth. Zidovudine (ZDV),
sometimes in combination with other antiretrovirals, is the treatment of choice
cesarean delivery for women with a high level of HIV
antibodies (viral load) and therefore a higher risk of infecting their babies.
- Antiretroviral treatment for the baby for 6 weeks
after birth. ZDV is the treatment of choice.
For more information, see the topic Human Immunodeficiency