Pregnancy & Childbirth, ‘Can I Transmit HIV to My Baby?’

Pregnancy & Childbirth

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Can I Transmit HIV to My Baby?

Yes. HIV-positive mothers can transmit HIV to their babies. This is called “mother-to-child transmission.” (It is also called “perinatal” or “vertical transmission.”) An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby in three ways:

  • During pregnancy
  • During vaginal childbirth
  • Through breastfeeding

But with proper treatment and coordination with healthcare providers, HIV-positive mothers can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their babies.

What Are the HIV Risks of Pregnancy and Childbirth?

An HIV-positive mother who is not being treated for her HIV during pregnancy, labor, or delivery has a 25% chance (1 in 4) of passing the virus to her baby.

However, there is good news. There are antiretroviral drugs that can protect babies from HIV infection. When an HIV-positive mother receives antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, labor, and delivery; has her baby by Caesarian section; and avoids breastfeeding, the chance of passing the infection to her baby falls to less than 2% (fewer than 2 in 100). (The newborn babies are also given treatment after birth to protect them.)

Of course, some women do not find out they are HIV-positive until they are already in labor. But there are still treatment options that can help protect their babies. If they receive antiretroviral drugs during labor and delivery and avoid breastfeeding, the chance of passing the infection to the baby can still be significantly decreased.

For more information, see CDC’s Mother-to-Child (Perinatal) HIV Transmission and Prevention.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION … The transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission. In the absence of any interventions transmission rates range from 15-45%. This rate can be reduced to levels below 5% with effective interventions. The global community has committed itself to accelerate progress for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) through an initiative with the goal to eliminate new paediatric HIV infections by 2015 and improve maternal, newborn and child survival and health in the context of HIV.

WHO works together with partners on setting global norms and standards for HIV prevention, care and treatment of pregnant women, mothers and their children, developing evidence-based strategies, defining global targets, baselines and indicators, promoting the integration of PMTCT into maternal-newborn-child health services and strengthening health systems.

Strategy on HIV/AIDS for 2011-2015

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