Starting a family with HIV
Paired Hands

Can I have a child If I am HIV positive?

Ready to start a family?

Whether it is you or your partner with HIV, know there are ways to have a safe pregnancy. It just takes information and a connection to the right care.

HIV and fertility 

While HIV can affect your body’s ability to produce hormones, it doesn’t mean starting a family is off the table. If you are trying to conceive, talk to your doctor. Explain your situation and desires. Together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan for care.

Getting pregnant naturally can take time. Most couples get pregnant within a year if they have regular sex without contraception, but for others, it can take more time or medical assistance. There are options available like fertility treatments, in vitro fertilization (IVF), at-home insemination or adoption.

My partner has HIV, but we want a baby 

If you are in a mixed-status relationship or serodiscordant relationship, which is when one partner is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive, talk to your doctor to plan for a healthy pregnancy and delivery – schedule an appointment today.

Some couples may consider assisted reproductive technology or medical procedures like IVF or at-home insemination. If you want to have sex to get pregnant, your doctor may suggest lowering your partner’s viral load to reduce the risk of passing HIV during sex.

I’m HIV+… Should I carry a baby? 

There are increased health risks for people with HIV who get pregnant but advances in research, prevention and treatment have made it possible for people with HIV to give birth to babies who are free of HIV (scroll down for more information).

Having HIV while pregnant makes the pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy so before deciding to get pregnant, understand the risks and required medical attention to keep you and your baby healthy.

Will my HIV treatments affect my pregnancy?

Antiretroviral treatment (ART) is recommended for all people living positive lives – including those who are pregnant. 

Staying on top of your treatment will help you reach U=U or Undetectable = Untransmittable. 

A consistent undetectable viral load prevents the spread of HIV to your partner and your baby, lowering the chances of perinatal transmission, which is passing HIV through pregnancy and delivery.  

Want to learn more about U=U? Click here

What about other HIV medications?

If you’re pregnant, the effectiveness of your HIV medication may lessen, so talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage. 

If you don’t have HIV and your partner does, ask your doctor if you should take preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that reduces the chances of transmitting HIV. 

PrEP is safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If I’m HIV-positive, will my baby test positive for HIV? 

During pregnancy, HIV can pass through the placenta and infect the fetus. During labor and delivery, the baby may be exposed to the virus from blood and other fluids. Breastfeeding can also transmit the virus to the baby.

To reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests:

  • Taking anti-HIV medications during pregnancy, labor and delivery as prescribed by your doctor
  • Having your baby by cesarean birth if lab tests show your HIV level is high
  • Giving anti-HIV medications to your baby after birth
  • Feeding your baby formula instead of breastfeeding

By following these guidelines, the ACOG says 99 percent of HIV-infected women will not pass HIV to their babies.

However, if your baby does test positive when they’re born, it doesn’t mean they are infected with HIV.

How so?

If your baby tests positive shortly after birth, it is because they were exposed to your HIV antibodies as a fetus – not their own. 

Babies are usually tested three times, so after delivery, your doctor will conduct three preliminary tests: 

  • Within the first few days 
  • At 1-2 months of age 
  • At 3-6 months of age 

If two of the tests are negative, your doctor will test for antibodies between 12-18 months. A Negative antibody result means your baby doesn’t have HIV. 

But if your baby tested positive on two of the three preliminary tests, they are considered HIV positive. Your doctor will test for antibodies again at 15 to 18 months. A positive result after 18 months means your baby has HIV. 

Ready to expand your family?

The Take Control HIV community is excited to support your family planning needs. Fill out our linkage to care form to connect with confidential care, support and resources.  

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