HIV and Pregnancy
Health Information for Patients
I am HIV infected and pregnant. When should I start taking anti-HIV medications?
When to start taking anti-HIV medications depends on your health, how much HIV has affected your body, and how far along you are in your pregnancy. In general, people infected with HIV who are not pregnant begin taking anti-HIV medications when their CD4 counts fall below 500 cells/mm3 or if they develop certain other infections. (See the "When to Start Anti-HIV Medications" fact sheet.) Pregnant women infected with HIV must also consider whether they need anti-HIV medications for their own health or only to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Women who need anti-HIV medications for their own health:
Women who need anti-HIV medications only to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV can consider waiting until after the first trimester of pregnancy to take anti-HIV medications. However, starting medications earlier may be more effective at reducing the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
All pregnant women infected with HIV should be taking anti-HIV medications by the second trimester of pregnancy. Women diagnosed with HIV later in pregnancy should start taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible.
What anti-HIV medications should I use during my pregnancy?
All pregnant women infected with HIV should take a regimen (combination) of at least three anti-HIV medications. However, the specific medications in your regimen will depend on your individual needs. To select a regimen, your health care provider will review your medical history and order blood tests to assess your health and the stage of your HIV infection. Your health care provider will also consider:
I am currently taking anti-HIV medications and just learned I'm pregnant. What should I do?
Continue taking your anti-HIV medications until you talk to your health care provider. Stopping treatment could harm both you and your baby.
If you are in the first trimester of pregnancy, tell your health care provider right away if you are taking Sustiva (or Atripla, an anti-HIV medication that contains Sustiva). Sustiva alone or in Atripla may cause birth defects that develop during the first few months of pregnancy. Your health care provider may recommend safe alternatives for these medications. After the first trimester, Sustiva or Atripla can be used safely.
Talk to your health care provider about the anti-HIV medications in your regimen. Because pregnancy can affect how the body absorbs medications, the doses of some medications you take may change later in pregnancy.
If you are taking anti-HIV medications and your viral load is more than 500 copies/mL, your current regimen may not be effective at suppressing HIV. Your health care provider will recommend a test to see if the medications are still working against HIV (drug-resistance testing) and use the test results to find more effective anti-HIV medications.
I used to take anti-HIV medications, but I don't anymore. What should I do?
Talk to your health care provider about all anti-HIV medications you have used, the results of past drug-resistance testing, and why you no longer take anti-HIV medications. Your medical history, past drug-resistance test results, and additional drug-resistance testing will help you and your health care provider select a new regimen that is safe for use during pregnancy.
Whether you were on anti-HIV medications before becoming pregnant or are just starting a regimen, your health care provider will:
For More Information
Contact an AIDSinfo health information specialist at 1-800-448-0440 or http://aidsinfo.nih.gov. See your 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/).
This article was provided by AIDSinfo. Visit the AIDSinfo website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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