The Power of Undetectable: What you need to know about HIV treatment as prevention

Having a Healthy Baby

If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, or you want to have a baby, HIV treatment can allow you to have a healthy HIV-negative baby. Since we know that undetectable HIV is sexually untransmittable, it is now easier for couples to get pregnant. Effective treatment also helps people with HIV give birth to HIV-negative babies.

If possible, try to find an obstetrician (a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth) who has experience with HIV care, who will be supportive and respect your choices. If you live in a smaller town or rural area, it might be harder to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about HIV. In that case, you can help him or her find information about HIV and pregnancy (visit www.catie.ca or call 1-800-263-1638).

Before effective HIV treatment existed, about 1 in 4 babies born to HIV-positive mothers was born HIV-positive. However, we now know that if a pregnant person starts HIV treatment prior to or very early in pregnancy and maintains an undetectable viral load, they will not transmit HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery.

Canadian guidelines recommend:

  • HIV medicine for the mother during pregnancy and labour
  • a short course of HIV medication for the baby after birth
  • vaginal delivery for most pregnancies; only in a few cases will a C-section (surgery to deliver a baby) be necessary
  • feeding the baby formula, and not breastfeeding (because HIV can be passed through breast milk even if the mother is on successful HIV treatment)

Research shows that pregnancy does not make your HIV worse and HIV does not change how your pregnancy proceeds.