HIV can be passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy, labour, birth and through breast feeding. However, with the right care and support this risk can be reduced significantly.
It is of the utmost importance that the HIV status of the mother is known. It helps her to make informed decisions regarding sexual activity, contraception, termination of pregnancy and methods of infant feeding, and gives her the opportunity of seeking early access to care.
Increasing the risk
The chances of infecting your baby are increased when:
- Your CD4 count is 200 or lower
- You do not have enough vitamin A in your diet
- You smoke cigarettes, use drugs and have unprotected sexual intercourse
- You have genital infections, especially sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- You have prolonged rupture of membranes during labour
- The baby’s skin is damaged during labour and/or the birth is traumatic
- Your baby is born prematurely
- You have a high level of circulating HIV virus.
Decreasing the risk
- Always practise safe sex
- Get treatment for STDs
- Take nutritional supplements
- Take medicines such as antibiotics if prescribed
- For the birth of your baby, go to hospital or nursing home where professional help is available to ensure that the baby is not traumatised and the correct care is given to both mother and baby
- Have a Caesarean section before labour and before your membranes rupture
- Consider alternatives for breastfeeding
- Take antiretroviral (ARV) therapy throughout pregnancy.
Take time to discuss these ways of reducing the risk of HIV transmission to your baby with your caregiver.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to know more about the transmission of HIV during pregnancy and childbirth. Call us on the EWP number or email us at
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