HIV doesn’t need to be a barrier to

starting a family

STARTING A FAMILY

Can I have a healthy child?

Can I have a healthy child?

Thanks to advances in HIV treatments, you can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, with the support of your healthcare team.

In fact, the advice available for women living with HIV is generally the same as for women who are HIV-negative. There are only a few extra steps to be aware of to help reduce the risk of transferring HIV to your partner and child. For more information see How can I prepare?

How can I prepare?

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, there are things you can do to protect your health and the health of your unborn child:

  • Talk to your healthcare team about HIV treatments – if you are not already on HIV treatment, you should talk to your healthcare team about starting treatment as soon as possible
  • Take your HIV medication as prescribed – it is very important to adhere to your HIV medication to help ensure your HIV viral load is undetectable. This will reduce the risk of HIV being passed on to your child
  • Quit smoking – this reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy and birth and increase the likelihood of having a healthy child. Visit the smoking page for advice on how to quit smoking
  • Stop drinking alcohol – as this can increase the risk of long-term harm to your child
  • Follow a healthy diet – it is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your child need. See our diet and HIV page for more information on what a balanced diet looks like
  • Take folic acid supplements – as this may reduce the risk of your child being born with any defects.Talk to your healthcare team about where you access folic acid tablets, they are usually available at pharmacies
Can I conceive naturally and safely?

Can I conceive naturally and safely?

Yes, your HIV status does not prevent you from getting pregnant. You may conceive naturally and significantly reduce the risk of passing on HIV to your partner, if you follow your HIV treatment as advised by your healthcare team, have had an undetectable HIV viral load for more than six months, and neither you or your partner have any sexually transmitted infections.

Your partner may also be offered anti-HIV treatment as a preventative step when you are trying to conceive.

Talk to your healthcare team as they can recommend the safest way for you to conceive naturally.

Can I have a natural birth?

Your options for giving birth are dependent on your HIV viral load during pregnancy and your personal circumstances: 

  • Natural (vaginal) delivery
    • If your HIV viral load is undetectable, it is usually safe for you to give birth naturally
  • Caesarean section
    • If your HIV viral load is high, your doctor may recommend a planned caesarean delivery as this reduces the risk of you passing on the HIV virus to your child

It is a good idea to talk through your options and delivery preferences with your healthcare team. They can also advise on other considerations for the birth.

What happens when my child is born?

What happens when my child is born?

  • Your child will take a course of HIV treatment as an extra measure to prevent HIV transmission. The duration and type of HIV treatment prescribed will depend on whether your HIV viral load was detectable or undetectable during the pregnancy and birth
  • Your child will be tested several times for HIV, with the first test just a few hours after birth and the final test at 18 months to conclusively determine your child’s status
  • The likelihood of transmitting HIV to your child is reduced to less than 2% if you take all of the necessary precautions, which involves you taking your HIV medication as prescribed, you do not breastfeed your child and your child being on HIV medication for a short period of time. If you choose to not follow necessary precautions, transmission rates range from 15% to 35%
  • If your child is diagnosed as HIV positive, the child will be referred onto a specialist clinic for children with HIV, to ensure the right care and support is given
  • Breastfeeding is not recommended for women living with HIV, as it carries a risk of passing the virus to your child. It is instead advised that you use formula to feed your child. Talk to your healthcare team for more information and advice
Where can I turn for support?

Where can I turn for support? 

Having a child is a rewarding and exciting experience, but there can be challenges along the way. For all mums, receiving support from your partner, family, friends and healthcare team can make all the difference during difficult times.

Talking to other mums living with HIV can also be helpful, as they can provide practical advice and talk about their own experiences of starting a family. Watch Angelina’s story of motherhood and hear her top tips on how to manage parenthood.

You can also ask your healthcare team for information about local support groups.

Talking to your children about HIV

What should I ask?

What should I ask?

  • What foods should I avoid whilst pregnant?
  • Why is it so important to take my HIV medications whilst pregnant?
  • Am I more likely to develop any side effects from my medication when pregnant?
  • Are there any methods of becoming pregnant safely, if my HIV viral load is high (not undetectable)?
  • What can I expect from my antenatal care appointments?