Can HIV be passed to the unborn baby in pregnancy? | Dr. Monica Agarwal

Can HIV be passed to the unborn baby in pregnancy?

Can HIV be passed to the unborn baby in pregnancy?

by: Dr. Monica Agarwal
Sr. Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology - Paras Bliss, Panchkula

Mother, if HIV positive can transmit the infection to the unborn baby during pregnancy, child birth and while breastfeeding because this virus is there in various bodily fluids including breast milk. But the good news here is that with proper and early initiation of medication the risk of transmission can be drastically reduced.

All the pregnant ladies who are known cases of HIV should continue their medication to prevent mother to child transmission and to protect their own health by keeping the viral load under control. Most HIV medicines are safe during pregnancy and do not increase the risk of birth defects. Those who are already taking medicines should continue with the same.

All pregnant ladies should visit the hospital as soon as they are diagnosed with pregnancy to take the HIV test along with the other important tests done during pregnancy. If HIV is found to be positive then she should start the ART( anti retroviral therapy) as soon as possible. These medicines work by reducing the viral load in the blood of the mother. This reduces the chances of the virus traveling to the baby via the blood stream.

Medication should be continued during pregnancy, delivery and after delivery also for full benefits. With medication chances of transmission are reduced to 2% and less which are around 25% with no medication.

The risk of mother to child transmission is greatest during vaginal delivery as the baby passes through the birth canal and comes in contact with the body fluids of the mother.

An elective Caesarean section is done at 38 weeks to prevent mother to child transmission in patients with high or unknown viral loads at the time of delivery. High viral load is >1000 copies per ml. Also an intravenous medication called as Zidovudine can also reduce transmission when given at the time of delivery.

Factors that increase risk of transmission


  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Malnutrition
  • Infection
  • Increased viral load

So to conclude we can say that HIV is a disease which does pass to the unborn child via the mother but the chances can be reduced by proper counselling, timely detection of disease and initiation of treatment. So instead of hiding your status you should come and take the test and start treatment if positive for the sake of your unborn child.

Paras Bliss Guraon
Paras Bliss Panchkula