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HIV and Pregnancy - Topic Overview

The 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 infection.1

Although your doctor 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 doctor may want to give you a second test later in your pregnancy.

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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. It is 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 medicines 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 stronger.

Treatment for HIV during and/or after pregnancy may include:

  • Antiretroviral treatment for the mother.
  • Planned cesarean delivery for women who have a high viral load. This means they have a higher risk for infecting their babies.
  • Antiretroviral treatment for the baby for 6 weeks after birth.
  • No breast-feeding.

For more information, see the topic Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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