Infants are prone to infections if their mothers are infected during pregnancy, labor, or delivery and, to a lesser degree, if they are infected during breastfeeding periods. Luckily, the chances of passing HIV from mother to child can be reduced if certain HIV medications are being used.
Nevertheless, a percentage of women who have HIV are not aware that they do. Therefore, experts advise pregnant women to undergo screening for HIV infections.
This article brings to light the factors that can prevent transmission of the virus ( HIV) from mothers to their unborn children.
CARE BEFORE PREGNANCY
Women infected with HIV should endeavor to speak with their health care specialist before trying to get pregnant. Most HIV medications are safe during pregnancy and will not require that the woman changes her medication during her pregnancy period. Before pregnancy, it is also vital to adhere to the doses of your medications. Women with complete viral suppression ( those who have no detected virus in their blood) have a lesser tendency to transmit the disease to their babies.
Note that pregnancy does not appear to worsen the state of HIV and most likely does not increase the chances of death. No study has ascertained if HIV medications during pregnancy would lead to a complication during the pregnancy period. Still, studies have pointed to the fact that drugs will reduce the risks that the infant will become infected.
CARE DURING PREGNANCY
After pregnancy has been confirmed, it is essential to meet with your obstetrical provider and HIV specialist. During these visits, you should discuss how to manage your HIV all through your pregnancy period.
During the initial evaluation, you should undergo blood tests to determine your specific viral load as well as the strength of your immune system. If you are not on any HIV medications, you should also do a blood test to check for mutations in HIV. And you should start medication immediately. It would help if you also did other blood tests to check your general health and monitor the side effects of the drugs.
During the pregnancy period, women with HIV should take combined antiretroviral regimens, if pregnancy occurred while on a regimen that is effectively controlling the virus, the woman should keep to this same regimen.
Furthermore, studies have shown that women who begin medications earlier in pregnancy tend to have a low amount of the virus in the blood after delivery.
LABOR AND DELIVERY WITH HIV
Medications During Labor — During labor, zidovudine is given through an intravenous catheter when the woman has a high amount of HIV in the blood close to the time of delivery. Zidovudine used in this case is to help to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Women who are on combination HIV medications should stay on them on schedule during labor or before a cesarean section; this provides maximal protection to the mother and infant and minimizes the possibility of the woman developing resistance due to a missed dose of medication.
Delivery Method — Choice of delivery method when it comes to women with HIV depends on the viral load. Generally, vaginal delivery is preferred for the safety of both mother and infant if the viral load is low. For women with high viral load, the safest method is a cesarean section.
CARE AFTER DELIVERY
For women after delivery — women who took HIV medications during pregnancy, should discuss with health care providers after delivery to ascertain the benefits of continuing with the medications. It is also essential to involve in care and support services, which include medication adherence support and screening for postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding — HIV can be transmitted through breastfeeding. Women who are infected with HIV shouldn’t breastfeed their infants, whether or not they are on medications. It is most preferable to give clean water and infant formulas to infants.
After the child has been born, it is necessary to treat infants born of women with HIV with zidovudine for four to six weeks of life to prevent the infant from becoming infected with HIV due to exposure to the mother’s blood during delivery.
Furthermore, a special test called an HIV PCR test can be carried out to tell if the baby is infected or not.
It is now a known fact that a child can be protected from HIV even if the mother is infected. Specific roles are to be followed, and these have been mentioned above. Following these judiciously can save your child the stress.