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HIV and Pregnancy – Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
HIV is transmitted (passed) from one person to another
Unprotected sex: sex without using a condom.
through specific body fluids—blood, semen, genital fluids,
and breast milk. Having unprotected sex
or sharing needles
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV: the passing of HIV
from a woman infected with HIV to her baby during preg-
with a person infected with HIV are the most common ways
nancy, during labor and delivery, or by breastfeeding.
Regimen: Anti-HIV medications are grouped into
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV
is when a woman
“classes” according to how they fight HIV. A regimen is a
infected with HIV transmits HIV to her baby during preg-
combination of three or more anti-HIV medications from
nancy, during labor and delivery, or by breastfeeding. Be-
cause HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, women
Intravenous (IV): to give a medication through a needle
infected with HIV should not breastfeed their babies. In the
United States, baby formula is a safe and healthy alternative
AZT: an anti-HIV medication in the nucleoside reverse
transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) class. AZT is also cal ed zi-
Although the risk is very low, HIV can also be transmitted to
Placenta (also called the afterbirth): tissue that develops
a baby through food that was previously chewed (pre-
within the mother’s uterus during pregnancy to provide
chewed) by a mother or caretaker infected with HIV. To be
safe, babies should not be fed pre-chewed food.
be transmitted through casual contact, such as
tions in a woman’s regimen may change.
hugging and closed-mouth kissing. HIV also cannot
transmitted by items such as toilet seats, door knobs, or
dishes used by a person infected with HIV.
When are anti-HIV medications used to pre-
Taking anti-HIV medications during pregnancy reduces theamount of HIV in an infected mother’s body. Having less
vent mother-to-child transmission of HIV?
HIV in the body reduces the risk of mother-to-child trans-
Anti-HIV medications are used at the following times to re-
duce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV:
Some anti-HIV medications also pass from the pregnant
• During pregnancy
, pregnant women infected with HIV re-
mother to her unborn baby through the placenta
ceive a regimen
(combination) of at least three diﬀerent
called the afterbirth
). e anti-HIV medication in the
baby’s body helps protect the baby from HIV infection. is
• During labor and delivery
, pregnant women infected with
is especially important during delivery when the baby may be
HIV receive intravenous (IV) AZT
and continue to take
exposed to HIV in the mother’s genital fluids or blood.
the medications in their regimens by mouth.
After birth, babies born to women infected with HIV receive
• After birth
, babies born to women infected with HIV re-
anti-HIV medication. e medication reduces the risk of in-
ceive liquid AZT for 6 weeks. (Babies of mothers who did
fection from HIV that may have entered the babies’ bodies
not receive anti-HIV medications during pregnancy may be
given other anti-HIV medications in addition to AZT.)
For information on what anti-HIV medications to take dur-
In addition to taking anti-HIV medications to reduce the
ing pregnancy, see the Anti-HIV Medications for Use in
risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a pregnant
woman infected with HIV may also need anti-HIV medica-
tions for her own health
. Some women may already be on a
regimen before becoming pregnant. However, because during
Contact an AIDSinfo
health information specialist at 1–
pregnancy some anti-HIV medications may not be safe to
800–448–0440 or visit http://aidsinfo.nih.gov. See your
use or may be absorbed diﬀerently by the body, the medica-
health care provider for medical advice.
This information is based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Recommendations for Use
of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant HIV-1-Infected Women for Maternal Health
and Interventions to Reduce
Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States
(available at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines).
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