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AIDS And Conception

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There are approximately 27 million pregnancies every year, and nearly 49,000 occur in HIV-positive mothers. Peri-natal transmission of HIV can happen through three ways:

  1. During pregnancy
  2. During vaginal childbirth
  3. Through Breastfeeding

1.5 to 2% of mother-to-child-transmissions occur during pregnancy. The majority occur during fetal transmission of blood or breastfeeding. An HIV+ mother who is not being treated during her pregnancy has a 25% chance of transferring the virus to her baby. But there are several antiretroviral drugs that can protect babies from an infection and reduce chances of infection to less than 2%. Ideally, every pregnant woman should be tested for HIV. This applies to the partner too.

To prevent transmission of virus during vaginal childbirth, HIV+ women should opt for a C-section. This combined with avoidance of breastfeeding, brings down the chances of infection in the baby up to less than 1%. Smoking, substance abuse, malnutrition, and vitamin A deficiency further increase the chances of peri-natal transmission. An HIV+ mother should try to maintain a healthy and addiction-free lifestyle.

Another important procedure is testing the baby for HIV. However, these are different than HIV tests in adults. Instead of looking for presence of HIV antibodies, the presence of the actual virus is detected. Accurate results can be obtained by the time the baby is 3 months old. About 15% of newborns born to an HIV+ mother become infected if they are breastfed for 24 months or longer.

Thus, an expecting HIV+ mother should consult a physician about every phase of her pregnancy and the well-being of her child. Considering the variety of treatments available to prevent transmission, the ideal birth plan can be developed to deliver an uninfected baby.


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