HIV transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
A pregnant woman living with HIV can pass on the virus to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and through breastfeeding.
If you are a woman living with HIV, taking antiretroviral treatment correctly during pregnancy and breastfeeding can virtually eliminate the risk of passing on the virus to your baby.
Attending antenatal appointments means you can get tested for HIV and if needed receive treatment and medical advice to help keep you and your baby healthy.
How is HIV transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy?
If you are a pregnant woman living with HIV there are a number of ways that HIV might be passed on to your baby. HIV in your blood could pass into your baby’s body. This is most likely to happen in the last few weeks of pregnancy, during labour, or delivery. Breastfeeding your baby can also transmit HIV, because HIV is in your breastmilk.
There is a 15 to 45% chance of passing HIV on to your baby if neither of you take HIV treatment.
However, taking the correct treatment during your pregnancy and while you breastfeed can virtually eliminate this risk.
How can I prevent passing HIV on to my baby?
If your HIV test result is positive, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to your baby.
Taking antiretroviral treatment to protect your baby
Taking treatment properly can reduce the risk of your baby being born with HIV to less than 1%.
If you knew that you were HIV-positive before you got pregnant, you may be taking treatment already. If you are not, talk to a healthcare professional about starting treatment as soon as possible.
If you found out that you living with HIV during your pregnancy, it is recommended that you start treatment as soon as possible and continue taking it every day for life.
Your baby will also be given treatment for four to six weeks after they are born to help prevent an HIV infection developing.
Protecting your baby during childbirth
If you take your treatment correctly, it will lower the amount of HIV in your body. In some people, the amount of HIV in their body can be reduced to such low levels that it is said to be ‘undetectable’ (undetectable viral load).
This means that you can plan to have a vaginal delivery because the risk of passing on HIV to your baby during childbirth will be extremely small.
If you don’t have an undetectable viral load, you may be offered a caesarean section, as this carries a smaller risk of passing HIV to your baby than a vaginal delivery.
If your HIV test result comes back positive, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby.