One has to be careful that one is not an HIV-positive mother who can transmit HIV to her baby during the time of pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or even breastfeeding.

In case, one happens to be a woman who is living with HIV and one who is pregnant then treatment with a combination of HIV medicines which is referred to as antiretroviral therapy or ART can indeed prevent “mother-to-child transmission” of HIV and also protect one’s health. The treatment is indeed very effective for preventing HIV transmission to babies during pregnancy.

How Can I Prevent Giving HIV to My Baby?

Women who are indeed pregnant or in fact planning a pregnancy should rather get themselves tested for HIV as quickly as possible. In case one suffers from HIV then it is best to take the required medicines to treat HIV infection (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) the right way, every day.

If one is pregnant then talk to one’s health care provider who will get herself tested and also ensure that the child does not suffer from getting HIV. Women in their third trimester should, in fact, be tested again as they would be indeed engaged in behaviors that do put them at risk for HIV.

If one is HIV-negative and one has an HIV-positive partner, one has to talk to the doctor about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which helps keep one from getting HIV. One must encourage one’s partner to take medicines to treat HIV (ART), which do greatly reduce the chance that one could transmit HIV to oneself.

If one suffers from HIV, one’s to take medicines immediately. After birth, babies who are indeed born to a mother with HIV are given ART right away for 4 to 6 weeks. If one is treated for HIV early during pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to one’s baby can be 1% or less. Breast milk can also contain HIV in it. So, after delivery, one can prevent giving HIV to one’s baby by not breastfeeding.

After childbirth, do the babies born to women with HIV receive HIV medicines in order to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

Babies who are born to women with HIV do receive an HIV medicine called zidovudine within 6 to 12 hours after the birth. In certain cases, the baby does receive other HIV medicines in addition to zidovudine. The HIV medicine does protect the babies from infection with any HIV that may have indeed been passed on from mother to child during the childbirth.

The use of HIV medicines and other strategies before as well as after childbirth have indeed greatly reduced the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

How long do babies born to women with HIV receive zidovudine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

In general, babies born to women with HIV receive zidovudine for 4 to 6 weeks after birth.

Once the 4- to 6-week course of zidovudine is finished, the babies receive a medicine referred to sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (brand name: Bactrim). Bactrim helps does prevent Pneumocystis jiroveciipneumonia (PCP), which is a type of pneumonia that can develop in people with HIV. If HIV testing shows that a baby is not infected with HIV, Bactrim is stopped.

How soon after birth are babies born to women with HIV tested for HIV?

After birth, babies are tested for HIV usually sometime between 14 to 21 days of life, at 1 to 2 months, and again at 4 to 6 months. The HIV test used (called a virologic test) does look for HIV in the blood.

What other steps help protect babies from HIV?

Since HIV can spread in breast milk, women with HIV who live in the United States should not breastfeed their babies. In the United States, infant formula is indeed a safe and healthy alternative to breast milk.

It is felt that children get infected with HIV by eating food that was previously chewed by a person who has had HIV. One should ensure that babies do not eat pre-chewed food.