The joy that women experience when they get the good news that they are expectant is beyond measure. Sadly, when these expectant mothers are found to be HIV positive, their joy turns into sadness and fear for both themselves and their unborn children. However, due to advancements in technology and in HIV treatment, there is treatment available to make sure the HIV positive woman leads a full life and is able to deliver a HIV negative child.
Puleng Mathe, a nursing sister from South Africa explains that it is indeed possible to deliver a healthy baby. All the woman needs to do is get on antiretroviral therapy that requires the patient to take medicine twice in a day. She however, insists that the patient should be aware of the side effects which might include diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes loss of appetite. She further says that the side effects sooner or later stop once the body gets used to the pill.
Mother to Baby Transmission
Recorded data shows that about 2 out of every 1,000 pregnant women test HIV positive. 1 out of every 3 HIV positive pregnant women are at risk of passing on the virus to their unborn in cases where treatment is not administered. HIV virus is passed from the mother mother’s bloodstream to the fetus through the placenta. This can occur as early as 8th week of pregnancy.
Additionally, a mother can infect her baby with the virus during childbirth if exchange of body fluids occur. This can occur either through vaginal or caesarean section birth. The virus can also be transmitted when breastfeeding their babies because breast milk of HIV positive mothers contains the virus.
Treatment for HIV Positive Pregnant Women During Pregnancy
If you test positive during pregnancy, there are very high chances of delivering a HIV negative baby, thanks to advance technology in this area. Studies have shown that expectant women can reduce the risk of passing HIV to their unborn babies by 60%.
For HIV positive women that don’t have AIDS symptoms, they can be zidovudine (AZT) during pregnancy, labour and birth decreasing the chances of passing the virus to their fetus. The drug is also given to newborns from birth to six weeks old to further reduce infection from breastfeeding. The drug has been hailed as a huge success and decrease chances of infection from 25% to 8%.
During pregnancy, it’s important that you take further tests such as an STD test because HIV may weaken your immune system. The doctor will also constantly monitor CD4 cell count and HIV viral load throughout your pregnancy to protect the baby’s health because a low CD4 cell count or a high viral load increases the chance of passing the virus to the unborn baby.
Counselling is Important
Being told that you’re HIV positive during a pregnancy can be a huge blow and most people think that they’ve been handed a death sentence. The good thing is that there are ways to protect your baby from getting infected and you can also take medicines that will prolong your life.
Seeking counselling after receiving a positive HIV test result is very important as it helps you to deal with the news and you will receive emotional support, information about leaving positively and most importantly what to do to protect your baby from the virus.
Thanks to continued research, HIV positive mothers can now deliver healthy babies and continue to live positively and enjoy the joys of being a mother.
Visit Shim Clinic
Visit or contact Shim Clinic if you have any queries about HIV and STDs, testing, prevention and treatment. We do provide HIV PEP to prevent infection from happening in the case of an exposure within the last 72 hours, as well as treatment to allay the chances of infection if you know you are going to be engaging in high risk activities.