The best prevention of perinatal transmission of HIV begins before pregnancy. Ideally, the partner(s) who is HIV-positive should have their HIV disease well-controlled and their medications reviewed before getting pregnant. Preconceptional counseling (counseling before pregnancy) and care is provided by qualified HIV and obstetrical providers to assist the couple to safely get pregnant with minimum risk to both partners and the planned baby.
If you need assistance finding a preconceptional care provider, please call the Illinois 24/7 Perinatal HIV Hotline at 1-800-439-4079.
Q: What can I do to become pregnant safely if I am HIV-positive?
A: Consult your doctor about the safest method for you to conceive. This will likely include taking anti-retroviral medicines and getting an undetectable viral load. There are various methods to help couples conceive that will take into account the HIV status of both partners to reduce the risk. While there is some risk of HIV infection, or HIV re-infection, there are ways to reduce or eliminate that risk to both parties.
Q: What if I am pregnant and HIV-negative but my partner is HIV-positive?
A: If a woman is HIV-negative and her partner is HIV-positive, there is no risk of perinatal transmission to the baby. However, pregnant women are STILL AT RISK for HIV infection and condoms must be used every time to prevent transmission of HIV to the mother while pregnant. A woman who becomes HIV-positive while pregnant has a greater chance of transmitting the virus to her baby. Because of the risk of HIV infection, it is recommended that all women in Illinois be tested again for HIV in their third trimester of pregnancy.
PACPI recommends that HIV care providers consider adding the following questions to their regular care visits to help assess the need for care in preparation for or to prevent pregnancy.
At each visit, provider should ask both men and women:
- Are you pregnant or at risk of pregnancy?
- Do you want to be pregnant?
If the client is pregnant, they can be referred to specialty HIV/OB care providers. If the client is at risk of pregnancy and does not wish to be pregnant, the provider can help the client develop a contraception plan.
If the client desires to become pregnant, the provider can either provide preconceptional counseling or refer the client to the hotline to find a provider in their area. The preconceptional plan should include an assessment of present medications, co-morbid conditions, and past pregnancy history. Such individualized assessment is crucial to help prepare for a healthy pregnancy prior to conception.