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Guide to HIV, Pregnancy and Women's Health: After the Baby Is Born

By Polly Clayden

March 2013

figure holding baby

What Will I Need to Consider for My Own Health?

Adherence! This means taking your drugs exactly as prescribed.

Your own adherence to your ART after the baby is born is critical.

Many women have excellent adherence during their pregnancy. After the baby is born, however, it is easy to forget your own health.

This is hardly surprising. Having a new baby can be a huge shock and is always unsettling. Your routines will change and you are unlikely to get enough sleep. In serious cases, women can have postnatal depression.

You will need lots of extra support from your family, friends and healthcare team. You may also find a community group very helpful.

Many mothers find the best way to remember to take their own medication is if they link it to the dosing schedule of their new baby. So if your baby has two doses a day and you have two doses, make sure that they are taken at the same time.


Guide to HIV, Pregnancy and Women's Health

How and When Will I Know That My Baby Is HIV Negative?

Babies born to HIV positive mothers will always test HIV positive at first if the usual antibody tests are used.

This is because they share their mum's antibodies. If your baby is not infected with HIV these will gradually disappear. This can sometimes take as long as 18 months.

The best test for HIV in babies is very similar to a viral load test. Called an HIV PCR DNA test, it looks for virus in the baby's blood rather than at immune responses.

Good practice in the UK is to test babies the day they are born, and then when they are six weeks and three months old.

If all these tests are negative, and you are not breastfeeding your baby, then your baby is not HIV positive.

You will also be told that your baby no longer has your antibodies when he or she is 18 months old. This exciting milestone is called seroreversion.


To Check the Baby Is HIV-Negative

HIV PCR DNA -- a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a highly sensitive test that detects tiny amounts of HIV DNA in blood plasma.

The test will "amplify" or multiply HIV DNA in the test tube so that it can be more easily detected.


Will My Baby Need to Take HIV Drugs After He/She Is Born?

Your baby will need to take antiretrovirals for four weeks following his or her birth.

The most likely drug will be AZT, which must be taken twice a day. In a few cases your baby may be given another drug or a combination of antiretrovirals if you have a virus that is resistant to AZT or if your baby was born while you still have a detectable viral load.

As we suggested earlier, try and co-ordinate the baby's antiretrovirals with your own treatment schedule.


Will I Need to Use Contraception After the Baby Is Born?

You will be given advice on contraception after your baby is born.

It is possible that resuming or beginning oral contraception will not be recommended if you begin using antiretrovirals in pregnancy.

This is because some antiretrovirals can reduce the levels of some oral contraceptives, which means they would not be foolproof birth control.

Please make sure your doctor knows about this and can advise you.


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This article was provided by HIV i-Base. It is a part of the publication Guide to HIV, Pregnancy and Women's Health. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:
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