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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.

Recommended Related to HIV/AIDS

HIV and AIDS in African-Americans

In many ways, African-Americans are bearing the brunt of the HIV crisis in the United States. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). African-Americans receive more AIDS diagnoses and experience more HIV-related deaths than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Here is a brief overview of the impact, possible causes, and potential ways to reduce the risk of HIV and AIDS in blacks.

Read the HIV and AIDS in African-Americans article > >

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).

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    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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