HIV - Babies At Risk

The Risk Of HIV Transmission To Baby

A woman who is HIV positive can transmit the virus to her baby during pregnancy, labour, and delivery as well as through breastfeeding. The risk, if she is not taking preventative medications, is between 20 and 45 percent that the baby will contract HIV. If the mother is on drugs for intervention, and if she feeds the baby formula rather than breastfeeds, then the risk of transmission to the baby is cut to as low as 2 percent. With today's modern medicine, even if resources are limited, a single dose of medication to the mother can halve the risk to the baby.

There's Value In Planning Ahead

A woman who knows that she or her partner is HIV positive before she conceives is better equipped to plan ahead. If she decides she does not want to have a baby, then she can act appropriately to ensure pregnancy does not happen. If, however, she and her partner decide to have a baby, the early intervention has the potential to protect her, her partner and their baby. An assessment of the situation by her doctor will provide the best interventions for her situation. Treatment should be adjusted as necessary. Pregnancy should not adversely affect a woman's health with regard to HIV.

A Variety Of Possible Scenarios

If an HIV positive woman and her HIV negative partner want to become pregnant, then the use of IUI, intrauterine insemination, is an excellent method of conception. The sperm is placed into the woman's genital tract using artificial means rather than natural sexual intercourse so that the man is protected. However, the risk of transmission of HIV to the baby is not lowered.

If the man is HIV positive, then the only effective way for the couple to conceive is through sperm washing. Sperm is separated from seminal fluid, and tested for the HIV virus before artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization is administered. Sperm washing is a very effective way to protect both mother and baby from infection.

Antiretroviral Medications Can Reduce Risk All Around

When both partners are infected with HIV, it is advised that they do not engage in unprotected sex since one or the other may re-infect their partner with a different strain of HIV. Should they decide to try to conceive by unprotected sex, then they should have a consultation with trained medical doctors about how to limit risk to each other and their baby. The risk of transmitting HIV is lowered if one or the other of the couple is receiving effective antiretroviral treatment and if neither member of the couple has an STI.

By limiting unprotected sex to the time of ovulation, there is reduced risk of HIV being passed between a couple. New treatments, along with the use of c-section for delivery, can reduce the risk of a mother passing HIV on to her baby.


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