Pregnancy care tips if you’re living with HIV
When you’re HIV-positive and expecting a baby or looking to start a family, there are extra precautions that you need to take to ensure that your health and that of your baby is well taken care of. Here’s how you can take care of your pregnancy and your baby when you're living with HIV.
Before the pregnancy
When you’re ready to start a family, consider talking to your doctor or a nurse about conceiving. Most doctors advise that before deciding to get pregnant, you take your medication daily and have an undetectable viral load. During your consultation, your medical practitioner will let you know whether you need to keep taking the medication you’ve been taking or if you need to change your medication to suit your pregnancy needs.
This consultation is important because you’ll learn about the risks of mother to child transmission during pregnancy, and the importance of taking your medication regularly so that you can reduce this risk. This way, you can make an informed decision about getting pregnant.
During the pregnancy
When your pregnancy has been confirmed by a medical professional, ask to meet with your HIV specialist so that you can discuss how you can manage HIV during your pregnancy and how to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to your child.
In this first consultation, tests will be done to assess your viral load and the strength of your immune system. If you don’t know your status at the time of pregnancy or haven’t been taking your medication regularly, you’ll be asked to take a blood test to check for mutated virus and the appropriate medication will be prescribed for you.
Keep in mind that a group of healthcare professionals (your HIV specialist, an obstetrician and at times a case manager) are likely to be involved in taking care of your health during your pregnancy. This will also be an opportunity for you to highlight any concerns you have regarding your health.
Labour and delivery
This time of your pregnancy is sensitive because there is a risk of mother to child transmission. Your viral load will be monitored throughout your pregnancy and your delivery options (natural or caesarean) will be based on how high or low your viral load is.
Care after delivery
After giving birth, your baby should be tested for HIV, and taken to the clinic for another test after 4 or 6 weeks. If you are advised to breastfeed your child, you will have to only give them breast milk as mixing breast milk and formula may increase their chance of getting infected with HIV, if they are HIV-negative. Your baby will be tested for HIV again once you have stopped breastfeeding them, to get their final results.
You should also keep to your HIV treatment regime (ARV) even after giving birth and continue taking them for life, even if you only started them after the delivery of your baby. This will help to reduce your viral load and help you stay healthy.
These pregnancy care tips are important to read over and understand because they’ll help you ensure the safety of your pregnancy and baby’s health. For more information on this, you can read this. Remember, you can have an HIV-negative baby when living with HIV, just make sure that you speak to your healthcare advisor and stay informed.
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