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Can HIV-Positive People Have Babies? 7 Myths About Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS

January 8, 2013


To have a child who is HIV negative, a mom living with HIV definitely has to deliver her baby via Cesarean section, right?

To have a child who is HIV negative, a mom living with HIV definitely has to deliver her baby via Cesarean section, right?

Untrue! Unless her viral load is 1,000 copies/mL or greater, or there's some other medical reason for a C-section, the recommendation for a woman living with HIV in the U.S. today is vaginal birth. Back when research into positive women having babies was new, C-section birth was considered safest because it reduced a newborn's exposure to its mother's blood and other bodily fluids. Now that advances in HIV treatment have made it possible to get levels of HIV in a woman's body down to where they can't even be detected by sensitive tests, there's no longer a need to keep a baby from making that trip through its mama's birth canal. Furthermore, these same advances in treatment may make it possible for some positive women to give birth outside a hospital setting -- if a woman, working with experienced providers, so chooses.

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See Also
10 Harmful Myths About HIV/AIDS
AIDS Myths

Reader Comments:

Comment by: What667 (Los Angeles) Sat., Mar. 26, 2016 at 9:54 am UTC
Very educational. I never knew there was so much medical breakthrough about this disease till I read some of the stories. My knowledge of HIV was in 1985. Seeing a neighbor die was a dreadful, sad experience that I abstained from sex as a way to say safe. Those living this disease are brave souls. I wish them all the happiness they deserve in life
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Comment by: laura gould (Hamden, CT, United States) Mon., Oct. 12, 2015 at 10:07 pm UTC
You fail to mention the 2% that are not so lucky, and end up HIV + despite the best efforts of the mother and the Drs. What is offered to those that are unfortunate enough to have the virus? and why don't you mention them?
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Comment by: chosenone (San Francisco, CA) Wed., Jun. 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm UTC
IF you have HIV or AIDS good luck finding life insurances, you see this disease will hurt you and your love ones more then you can know, that why you need to get a life policy before you go to the dr.
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Comment by: tracey Ndlovu (south africa) Fri., May. 16, 2014 at 2:38 am UTC
i have a 17month healthy chubby charming baby boy and i was positive when i conceived, started taking treatment when i was 7 MONTHS pregnant and my bay is fine and healthy. i am also fine and living a normal life. infact i still want 2 more kids.
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Comment by: Elfa (Cincinnati) Sat., May. 10, 2014 at 8:50 am UTC
I'm 39 and I've had HIV since I was 20. I have 4 children, none of them, nor their mothers, my first and second wives, ever contracted HIV.

All 4 were conceived before I ever began HIV drug therapy.
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Comment by: Tom Taylor (Chicago, IL) Thu., May. 1, 2014 at 9:15 pm UTC
All these haters who want to deny infected men the joy of not having to wear those danged raincoats. Good thing these myths are being debunked. Plus attempted murder for casual sex? Caveat Emptor. In Sphinxum Vertitas.
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Comment by: c (usa) Wed., Apr. 30, 2014 at 4:18 am UTC
If someone has sex with another person who has HIV, and the chances of them contracting it is only 2 percent,would you honestly still do that? i would not. 2 percent is far too high to be on the safe side. I'm risking my entire life, and the health I have for the rest of my life on 2 percent? The rewards are simply not high enough for me to take such a chance. Let's assume it takes the average couple 8 times of sexual intercourse to achieve pregnancy. By the time of the 8th sexual encounter, the chances of being infected by HIV are 15 percent. That is extremely high. People with HIV should not be allowed to have kids, it is detrimental to the health of society and will only reduce the efficiency of the human race.
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Comment by: Yaeger Fri., Apr. 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm UTC
The improvements of treating aids has improved so much through the years, and I think it is great.
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Comment by: marvin (orange county, ca) Thu., Dec. 26, 2013 at 5:19 am UTC
Yes of course, people diagnosed with HIV can have kids! The question is, SHOULD they? As a health care worker, I have had two HIV + patients
who were both about 4 to 5 years old. They contracted the virus from their mothers during pregnancy; the virus crossed the placenta and infected the unborn child. Each lived maybe one to two years beyond their ages when I helped care for them, then their bodies declined and they passed. It was very sad. What many people do not know is that "things" take place during this decline; one thing that I had to do was to give Racemic epinephrine as an aerosolized breathing treatment when they had a nose bleed. The bleed was due to the disease and the medication helped to slow the bleeding down since it acts as a capillary vasoconstrictor. They were happy boys, always smiling and wanting to play games, but strangely, never saying a word...
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Comment by: Tyrique (Mississippi) Fri., Dec. 20, 2013 at 7:46 pm UTC
it's called sperm washing -- HIV is in the semen, not the sperm, so therefore, with higly sophisticated technology in labs, the semen is thoroughly washed away from the sperm of the male. just to use this analogy and to give a mental visualization...picture the egg, right?...the yolk is the sperm and the egg-white is the semen - with thorough washing of the semen away from the unaffected sperm, the sperm is not HIV+.

just for you unknowledgeable shallow-minded people to know out there that are not educated on this.
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Comment by: Anonymous Fri., Dec. 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm UTC
1 in infinity would be too high a risk. The world is already choking in overpopulation so why should anyone get pregnant if there is any
risk (1 in infinity) of passing on an illness or other problem?
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Comment by: Heidi (Madison) Sat., Oct. 19, 2013 at 11:29 am UTC
That is wonderful news for me to be aware of this update. I am so behind with this advance medical info. I used to work with several past clienteles with HIV and a full blown. Back then, I had to wear mask and communicate with deaf clients in signing.
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Comment by: Someone (Somewhere) Wed., Aug. 14, 2013 at 5:44 am UTC
I would just like to inform you that your thumbnailed pictures, to the careless eye, looks like a boob. After a second glance I realized it was a pregnant belly, and that is all and well, but I thought you might want to know. If that was intentionally misleading to get extra readers, congrats ;P
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Comment by: Michael P. (Chandler AZ) Sat., Mar. 23, 2013 at 10:14 am UTC
I am only 1 child in Family. About 4 years ago. I wa diagnostic HIV Pos. I was scare thinking I will be die. But go to Mayor clinics. And took Med but insurance don' t cover. So I am go search for help. Lucky I found one local in Phx. And meet specialist for HIV. My Doc draw my blood every 3 months and now is almost 4 years. My system get very strong. And now I am undectable. My red blood cell is increase. My Doc is very happy. Said you are go to the correct. I told her I like to joins the woman get get my own blood. To Carrie my Family? But I am scare to transfer HiV to her and the Baby. She said , No
I can help you if you really like to have one? But where find the girl or Woman? Will cost me a lot of money? Such I don' t have that kind the money? If any one think can help me? I will take care all the pregnancy and visit Doc. Or we can share the Baby?
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Comment by: herbert (AUSTRALIA) Thu., Mar. 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm UTC
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Comment by: Jermaine (Denver, CO) Wed., Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:55 am UTC
I am an actual testimony to this. IT is very possible for an HIV poz man to biologically father a child. :)Great topic!
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Comment by: A (Brooklyn) Thu., Feb. 7, 2013 at 7:48 am UTC
I found out I was HIV+ when I was pregnant with my first child. I was told by dr. to have an abortion, as well as the internet (WedMd) in 1999. Thank God I didn't. I found a wonderful Dr. (Dr. Grunebaum at NY Hospital now) who delivered both of my HIV negative children. Yes, I took AZT & Nevirapine, I had intravenous AZT during birth, I had a scheduled c-section 10 days before expected due date, and I gave the baby six weeks of liquid / sweet AZT by mouth and had both regularly tested. The happiest day of my life-- the day(s) my children were born. The second happiest day(s)-- the days I was told they were negative. What a blessing (and no I'm not religious).
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Comment by: Terry (New York, NY) Mon., Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm UTC
good !
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Comment by: mandy (south africa) Fri., Feb. 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm UTC
started arvs (atripla) 2 weeks ago, today discverd im 4 weeks pregnant, im not sure if i should terminate or keep the baby due to side effects, please advise.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Ann (Brooklyn, NY) Thu., Feb. 7, 2013 at 7:50 am UTC
Consult your dr. and if you don't like the reply consult another dr. (I did, though wasn't on atripla). I have two HIV negative children. Terminating is a huge decision and I look at mine and realize having them is the best thing I ever could've done in my life. To have listened to the first dr. that said have an abortion would've been a HUGE mistake!

Comment by: Renee (Shreveport, LA) Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm UTC
I was strongly urged to reconsider having children. The doctor stated that it wouldn't be a good idea to bring a life into this world because of my HIV. She even went to the extreme of telling me birth control would be the best option, but quicly cleaned it up and stated, but if you decide to go ahead and have a child being that you have HIV, i will be glad to take care of you during your pregnancy.
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Comment by: ghislaine (Bamenda, Cameroon) Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 5:35 am UTC
although we have to do everything to avoid HIV infection, it no more sound like the end of the world. now it is possible to live a healthy long live and even thinking of having good healthy children. we just have to say thanks to the Lord for that.
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Comment by: fidelix o. (lagos Nigeria) Mon., Jan. 21, 2013 at 8:20 am UTC
this good at least the fear of a mother passing on the virus to her unborn baby is no longer there.
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Comment by: Cassi (Oakland, CA) Tue., Jan. 15, 2013 at 6:11 am UTC
You forgot to mention that you can safely breastfeed even being HIV positive. The likelihood of passing HIV through breast milk is very slim. In fact, breast milk from an HIV-positive mother may actually protect the infant from HIV because of the antibodies against it that the mother will have made. But that's only the case if the child is exclusively breastfed. I'd love to hear more research about this!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Renee (Shreveport, LA) Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm UTC
Really? this is my first of hearing of this. of course i hadn't been researching much lately. But definitely puts a positive light on becoming pregnant and breastfeeding. And arises a few questions for the OB/GYN docs.....
Comment by: Jenn (New York, NY) Mon., Jan. 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm UTC
While this may be true, there is still risk involved, and mothers should still consult with their doctors regarding breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a report stating that in the US, where clean water and formula are readily available, mothers with HIV should not breastfeed their children.

Paper here:
Comment by: Olivia ( Mon., Jan. 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm UTC
Yes, there are seemingly contradictory threads of information regarding breastfeeding and HIV, depending on the region of the world in which a person lives. The bottom line is, where replacement feeding is unavailable or unsafe, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for mothers living with HIV; in areas of the world where replacement feeding is a viable, safe option, the official recommendation states that the potential risks of breastfeeding outweigh the benefits of doing so. Check out this explanation:
Comment by: Ann (Brooklyn, NY) Thu., Feb. 7, 2013 at 7:51 am UTC
Really! Absolutely DO NOT breastfeed ! This will guarantee your child will get the virus, even if you deliver a negative baby. I gave both my children formula. Good catch Cassi-- very important info!
Comment by: Steve Train (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Sat., Oct. 19, 2013 at 9:25 am UTC
Very irresponsible post.

You do run the risk of transmission via breastfeeding. I hope your post does not lead to mothers mistakenly breastfeeding and infecting their children.

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