Having an HIV-negative baby

If you are pregnant, or you want to have a child, HIV treatment can allow you to have an HIV-negative baby. If you start HIV treatment before pregnancy and maintain an undetectable viral load throughout your pregnancy, you will not pass HIV to your baby during pregnancy or delivery. If you are not on treatment when you first get pregnant, starting HIV treatment as soon as possible dramatically lowers the chance of passing HIV to your baby.

If you do not have an HIV doctor, your local HIV organization may be able to help you get connected with one. When you tell your doctor that you are planning to have a baby or you are pregnant, they will review your HIV meds to make sure they can be taken during pregnancy.

Try to find an obstetrician who you trust and feel comfortable talking to honestly. It is a good idea to look for an obstetrician who has experience with HIV care. However, this might not be possible if you live in a small town or rural community.

To reduce the chance of HIV passing to your baby, Canadian guidelines recommend:

  • taking HIV treatment before you get pregnant and during pregnancy and labour
  • having a vaginal (frontal) delivery for most pregnancies; only in a few cases will a C-section (surgery to deliver a baby) be necessary
  • giving HIV meds to your baby for a short time after birth
  • feeding the baby formula, and not breastfeeding (chestfeeding), because HIV can be passed through breast milk even if the parent is on successful HIV treatment

Talk to a healthcare provider you trust if you wish to breastfeed (chestfeed) or if you have questions about infant feeding as there may still be a small risk of HIV transmission even when you have an undetectable viral load. If you choose to breastfeed (chestfeed) your baby, it is important to work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider who can monitor your health and support you and your baby.