Pregnant and HIV Positive – Is your child at risk?

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pregnant woman and husbandExtensive research suggests that it is possible for pregnant HIV positive women to have babies without the virus spreading to the baby.

Babies are vulnerable to contract HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding.  If a mother wants to give birth to a healthy, HIV negative child she would need to start antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible.  Women who are HIV positive and pregnant and who are taking medication should see their doctor or gynaecologist as some medication can be harmful to the baby.  Certain medication is given to the mother during labour and delivery as the child is at a higher risk of contracting the virus from the mother’s body fluids and blood.  In some cases it is recommended to have a C-section as it may reduce the risk of HIV to the baby.  Breastfeeding is not advised as breast milk contains the virus and may spread to the baby; alternative feeding such as formula is recommended.

Babies who are born from HIV positive mothers are tested and provided with treatment to minimise the risk of HIV.    If the baby tests negative after 6 weeks of HIV treatment the medication can be discontinued.   If there are antibodies found within the baby’s blood then the baby is HIV positive; long term medication will be administered.

There will always be a risk when a HIV positive woman decides to have children.  It is possible though to have a HIV negative baby.  Antiretroviral drugs assist in preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to baby.  It is recommended to seek professional advice from your doctor or obstetrician.  If you are planning to have a baby you must realise that you may still require treatment during and after the baby is born.  A mother who is HIV positive still has the responsibility to take medication so that she does not become ill.  A healthy lifestyle and diet will also protect a HIV positive mother from further harming her body.  A new born baby requires a lot of attention and the mother needs the energy to look after her baby.

HIV positive women do have a chance to start a family and live a normal life.  A positive attitude and responsible behaviour is required as well as support from doctors, family and friends.  Your immune system is challenged by the virus therefore you would have to eat healthily and exercise regularly to protect yourself and your baby.

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