Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
HIV, Pregnancy and
What is perinatal
Perinatal means the period right before, and
right after, birth. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is the
virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The words
"perinatal HIV" mean that the HIV virus has been passed to the new baby from the
mother. In general, babies born to mothers who have HIV have a 25% to 30% chance
of being infected with HIV.
If I'm thinking about becoming
pregnant or if I'm pregnant, should I get tested for HIV?
You should talk about this with your doctor. In
some states, your doctor is required by law to offer you an HIV test. If you
think you are at risk for the HIV virus or may already have the HIV virus, you
may want to be tested. If you find out that you are infected with HIV, you might
choose not to have children. If you are already pregnant when you find out, you
have time to think about doing things to lower the chance that your baby will be
infected with HIV.
How can my baby get perinatal
Your baby can get HIV several ways: during
pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or during breast feeding. Most babies get
infected with HIV during labor and delivery. There may be less of a chance of
passing HIV to your baby if you have a cesarean delivery (a C-section). Talk
about this with your doctor.
How can I find out if my baby has
During pregnancy, the mother's antibodies (part
of the immune system that fights germs) are passed on to her baby. So all babies
of women with HIV will test positive for HIV antibodies at first. This doesn't
mean the baby is infected, though. Babies keep the mother's antibodies until
they can make their own, which happens between 6 and 18 months of age. If the
baby isn't infected, he or she will lose the mother's antibodies and start to
test negative for HIV sometime between 6 and 18 months of age. If the baby is
infected with HIV, he or she will still lose the mother's antibodies, but the
baby will start to make antibodies to HIV. The baby will test positive and
continue to test positive for HIV. Other blood tests, called PCR and viral
culture, can also be used to check babies for HIV infection. These tests may be
able to tell your doctor if your baby is infected during the first 6 months of
age. These tests aren't available at all clinics, however, so ask your doctor if
they are available.
Should I end my pregnancy if I find
out I'm HIV-positive?
Not necessarily. You should talk about it with
your doctor. There are medicines that can lower the chance that you will pass
the HIV virus to your baby.
Can medicines prevent my baby from
Medicine can't totally protect your baby from
getting HIV, but it can lower the chance that the baby will get the virus. A
medicine called zidovudine (brand name: Retrovir) can reduce the rate of passing
HIV from mother to baby by two-thirds. Zidovudine slows the growth of the virus,
so the baby's immune system (which helps fight germs and illness) can get
stronger. The medicine is also called AZT.
Will zidovudine hurt my
So far, no babies have had birth defects because
of zidovudine. But no one can tell for sure how zidovudine will affect your baby
as he or she grows up. The medicine hasn't been used in pregnant women long
enough to know what will happen to their children when they get older. Talk
about the risks and benefits of zidovudine with your doctor. So far, there have
been no serious side effects in pregnant women taking
Should I breast feed my baby if I
Because HIV can be passed to the baby through
breast milk, it's better to bottle feed your baby if you are infected