Not all women who have HIV will give it to their children. Without the benefit of treatment or the potential hazard of breast feeding, about 25% of pregnant women with HIV will transmit the virus to their babies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, antiretrovirals work well in stopping HIV transmission. If women take anti-HIV meds during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and their babies are given drugs after birth, their HIV transmission risk can be reduced from 25% to less than 1%.
Regularly testing pregnant women for HIV and providing antiretrovirals if they are infected has dramatically reduced the number of children born with HIV. In 1992, for example, 855 children of HIV-positive women in the United States developed AIDS, but in 2005 only 37 children developed AIDS'a decline of about 96%.
If you find out you're pregnant, here's what the CDC's guidelines say you should do:
>Get medical care. There is no substitute for sound health advice directly from a primary caregiver. Don't try to make this happen on your own'even with these guidelines. You need to see a physician for your pregnancy and your HIV infection. Sometimes, this can be the same person. Make an appointment as soon as you know you are pregnant, and keep all of your appointments.
>If your doctor or nurse prescribes medications for you, take them exactly as the directions say. This will help keep you healthy, which means you have a better chance of having a healthy baby.
>When you go into labor, get to the hospital early. At the hospital, you will get more drugs to prevent passing HIV to your baby. Your physician may also decide to perform a cesarean delivery if you and your doctor or nurse have not decided on one already.
>Don't breast-feed. The virus is in breast milk, and you can give HIV to your baby by breast feeding. Your doctor or nurse will show you how to care for your breasts until they stop producing milk, and you can get help buying baby formula if you need it.
>Give your baby his or her medications. Your baby will start getting antiretrovirals to prevent HIV right after birth. When you go home from the hospital, you will keep giving medication to your baby. Be sure to keep giving the drugs just as the directions say. Ask your doctor or nurse if you're not sure how to administer them; make sure you understand before you go home. Also, there may be help available if you can't afford the drugs your baby needs.
>Keep your baby's appointments. You won't know right away if your baby has HIV. He or she will need to return to the doctor or nurse for checkups and tests over the first several months after birth. Be sure to go to all of your baby's regular doctor's visits, and go right away if your baby gets sick.