Parenthood: Expecting the Unexpected
By Brooke Davidoff
July 13, 2010
People want to know what it's like to be pregnant and have HIV. I really don't know. Not to be a smartass, but I've never had one without the other. I'm not sure if my mood changes, tiredness and nausea are pregnancy related or HIV medication related.
When I learned I was positive in January 2010, my first OBGYN informed me that I could not have natural childbirth, and I could not breastfeed. She also informed me that I was her first-ever HIV-positive patient. That was pretty un-reassuring for my husband and I. She referred us to an HIV OBGYN, and gave us the option to stay with her and see the HIV doctor a few times for educational reasons, or to just move our visits over to the HIV doctor.
After one more visit with my pre-HIV doctor the choice was easy. She had a cold, but seemed to avoid me like the plague. The visit was beyond weird, and we decided not to go back. She went over my numbers, which my new HIV primary doctor had done the day before, and she had very little baby information to go over. Being first-time parents, and new to HIV as well, we decided we needed a doctor who was comfortable with me. Someone who had the answers to questions we knew would come up.
I realize every doctor needs a first patient to learn from. I also realize I'm too new to both of these topics to be a doctor's first anything.
From the first time I walked in, the HIV OBGYN was amazing. I was educated and comforted all at the same time. It was nice to know I was not the ONLY one who has this disease. She works in a teaching hospital so in her educating me, she's also got residents in the room learning at all times. I'm not only comfortable with that, I'm signed up for a research study on pregnant HIV women.
It's her job to treat HIV women and their babies, so questions I never even thought of are answered. She doesn't look at me as a disease, and I realize I'm just another patient to her, but she manages to make me feel important. For that, I can honestly say I love her.
I lost five pounds in a two-week period after starting the HIV medications. I was then put on two anti-nausea medications.
I began researching HIV and baby stuff, knowing I really didn't know much about either.
Months later, with my mind set on a c-section, I was told by my new OBGYN that if my viral load was undetectable, there was no reason for a c-section and natural was the way to go. Depending on a woman's viral load within weeks of delivery, she can have natural childbirth.
There I was, left with less than two months of pregnancy, and we had not been to ONE Lamaze class. I hadn't even looked into natural childbirth, since I was so excited to not have to do it. I thought my only perk of HIV was to skip the labor part of this baby.
All the programs I found on classes for parents-to-be were six weeks long -- where new parents are taught to breastfeed and all sorts of other new parent information. Had we been planning to go to one of these six-week-long parent classes we would have missed two weeks due to my father's death in May. We were out of town for two weeks, and when we got back home parenting classes were far from the list of things to do in either of our minds.
From what I have learned in my short time to research this, without proper prenatal and postnatal care of mother and baby, the infection rate for babies is about 1 in 4.
Recommendations for pregnancy and birth:
- Treating the HIV+ mother with a Retrovir (AZT, zidovudine)-containing regimen during pregnancy. Guidelines state the treatment of the pregnant woman may start as early as 14 weeks into the pregnancy.
- Giving the mother a dose of intravenous (IV) Retrovir during delivery.
- Treating the newborn with oral Retrovir for six weeks after birth.
C-section delivery recommended:
- The viral load is unknown or is greater than 1,000 copies/ml at 36 weeks of pregnancy
- There has been no HIV medications taken during the pregnancy
- There has been no prenatal care prior to 36 weeks of pregnancy
- A c-section should be scheduled prior to the rupture of membranes ("water breaking")
Vaginal delivery can be done if:
- There has been prenatal care throughout pregnancy
- The viral load is less than 1,000 copies/ml at 36 weeks of pregnancy
- HIV medications have been taken during pregnancy
The average pregnant woman gains between 15 and 35 pounds. I went the first seven months, and lost five pounds. I am going into my ninth month pregnant and have only gained seven. I don't exercise or work out.
I am currently undetectable. My due date is July 29th. My husband and I went on a tour of the birth floor at the hospital a few weeks ago, and we got to see the rooms where women deliver, and the rooms you go to hours after where you recover. From all the stories I have heard from co workers, and friends, I really have no desire to have natural childbirth. I have been horrified of it forever.
I talked my doctor into a c-section. Hopefully my next post will not be about how my son decided to come early, and I had to have natural childbirth. But as it goes today, I'm going to be a mother to a baby boy July 15th. I will come into the hospital hours before he's removed and will be given an IV of AZT for four hours. All my HIV and nausea medications are provided by the hospital. The baby will be on HIV medication for six weeks. And then after more blood work, we go from there with his care and mine.
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Comment by: Marla
(Urbana, IL, USA)
Fri., May. 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm EDT
Just wanted to share a web site from the Center for Disease Control might help relieve the fear of HIV+ mothers. Please check out the following information I found at CDC's site:
Not all women who have HIV will give it to their children. Without treatment or breastfeeding about 25% (1 in 4) of pregnant women with HIV will transmit the virus to their babies. Fortunately, a group of drugs called antiretrovirals works well in stopping HIV transmission. If women take these drugs before and during birth, and their babies are given drugs after birth, HIV transmission is reduced from 25% to less than 2% (fewer than 2 in 100). Regularly testing pregnant women for HIV and providing antiretroviral drugs if they are infected has dramatically reduced the number of children born with HIV. In 1992, 855 children in the U.S. developed AIDS, but in 2005 only 57 children developed AIDS - a decline of 93%.
For more information, please go to:
I hope this helps women who are concerned that is highly possible to deliver an HIV- baby!
Comment by: teapot
Wed., Aug. 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm EDT
Brooke had her baby -- a healthy, lovely boy -- on July 15 as planned! Stay tuned for more updates!
Comment by: Lisa
Wed., Jul. 28, 2010 at 5:03 am EDT
I just read this article on 29 JUL and say a prayer for you and your baby today.
Comment by: jasmine
Thu., Jul. 22, 2010 at 11:28 pm EDT
Today is July 21, do I start by congratulating you on being a mother since you wrote on your post that your Dr. scheduled a c-section for the 15th of July? Anyways, I just want to share my experinece with you. I am a Hiv+ mother, diagnosed in November 2006. I started medication in Feb 2007, and since then, Ive been doing just fine. I got married to a positive man last year and we decided to have children. I took in and my Dr gave me EDD of July 6th. He told me to choose a date between june 15 and 19th for my c-section. But on 9th of June, my water broke, was rushed to the hospital and I delivered within 3 hrs of labour. It was a vagina delivery with no complications at all. I was discharged with the baby 2 days later and after a week, my baby's result came out negative. My viral load is undetectable with a CD4 of 620, and I was on kaletra+combivir throughout the pregnancy. My baby is now 6wks old and had just finished his dose of oral zinovudine, AZT. Am such a happy mother. This is just to encourage you. Good luck with yours.
Comment by: daphney
Sun., Jul. 18, 2010 at 7:30 am EDT
Thanks Brooke for you story am really encouraged,just got my results last month that am positive,and believe me its a very heavy news to bear now.But your story has given me hope
Comment by: Morenike Giwa
Fri., Jul. 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm EDT
Congratulations on the birth of your little one! may he be blessed with happiness, health, and lots of love.
Comment by: Sarah
Fri., Jul. 16, 2010 at 9:12 am EDT
Sweety, congratulations for the baby boy. It's a awesome and it gives me too hope.
I am 40 and wanna have a baby, sounds odd but I am determined.
Comment by: jane wambui
Fri., Jul. 16, 2010 at 6:02 am EDT
good health to you and the baby boy.
Comment by: Millie
Thu., Jul. 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm EDT
i had a child that now is 19 and if anyone had fear it as me i was offer the AZT death pills from back then but i was blessed and refused all that stuff and the fear everyday when i showered prayed to god to protect my unborn child he is a miracle child but nothing could have prepared him for the discrimination he faced growing up it was brutal just cause he was my son
Comment by: freakedout
Thu., Jul. 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm EDT
Brooke, reading your blog is so reassuring. I was diagnosed in 2005 and thought I would never have children. I am on meds and currently undetectable, and my husband and I are considering getting pregnant. I have to be honest, it is still scary and I wonder what I would do if I gave birth and my child was +ve. However, your courage and openess in sharing your story makes me believe I can do this. Wish you the very best. You are an inspiration to so many of us +ve mothers-to-be.
Comment by: Us Two
Thu., Jul. 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm EDT
I'm so proud of you for being so proactive in writing this blog so soon after finding out your status. Please continue to keep blogging. We, my husband and I, are learning so much from this.
Comment by: Corkeesdad
Thu., Jul. 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm EDT
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When PML claimed my daughter Courtney's life, I began my personal quest to raise Worldwide Awareness! I thought to myself, how can one person could possibly accomplish such a huge task? That's when I decided to write and share her amazing story with you all, the people of our World!
My new book trailer has been successfully uploaded to the YouTube
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Comment by: Moses
Thu., Jul. 15, 2010 at 9:54 am EDT
Be stong and remember that the same power that guides the stars, guides us as well.
Comment by: Ivan
Wed., Jul. 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm EDT
Hi Brooke, look what happened to a mother in Austria - the hosting country of 2010 AIDS conference:
Mother found guilty of deliberately infecting her child by natural delivery and breastfeeding.
Comment by: MomtoOne
Tue., Jul. 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm EDT
I was treated like an "alien" but refused to be shipped off to a "teaching hospital". I had a doctor that had only had one other "hiv mommy" (gotta love being labeled that" yet she was very eager to learn so I felt it was meant to be and stuck with her. She was terrified too, wore double gloves and didn't do a double stitch after the c-section (grounds for suit but I let her slide on many things due to her overachiever self and willingness to learn). She had several doctors stand her up and no one from her MANY physician practice to assist her in delivery. It was quite sad but she was a trooper and my daughter was delivered in one of the top notch hospitals with a super nico unit. Some nurses were scared, some were interested to learn and I hope I educated many. The blood work was heart breaking to hear my daughter cry and I seemed to know more than they did on the testing requirements and updates (this was at the "pediatric hiv specialist"/teaching hospital for follow up) that met the definition of "definitively excluded" and would not let them "dig in her veins" anymore. You have a lot of joy, a lot of anxiety and many years of love and laughter ahead of you. You will make it through --- trust me. I'm so glad you are here sharing, hopefully some OBGYNs, RN's, LPN's and other healthcare staff will get it together. Oh, and I was asked repeatedly if I wanted to have my tubes tied. I insisted NO! Good luck Brooke, may your tears of laughter and joy be as wonderful as mine were then and are today as I watch my child flourish!
Comment by: Green Trees
Tue., Jul. 13, 2010 at 10:44 am EDT
I'm so excited about your impending birth. I just recently found out that I was preganant. You just seem so brave. I hope that I'm half as courageous as you are.
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