HIV/AIDS and the Pregnant Woman
Where it Began
Back in the mid-1970's an epidemic began that would change the face of the world's health concerns forever. It is believed that the AIDS epidemic had its origins in Africa, but by the early 1980's it had spread to five continents, leaving a trail of death in its wake. It seemed impossible to stop, but today there are myriad treatments available to help those who suffer with the HIV/AIDS virus and infection.
How is HIV Transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse or exposure to infected blood or blood products. And infected woman can pass the virus on to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery and also by breastfeeding. Of the 120,000 to 160,000 women who are HIV positive living in the US, many are unaware they have the virus and when pregnant, their babies stand up to a 45% chance of contracting the virus.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and even though a woman may be HIV-positive - meaning antibodies in the blood are present to fight the virus - she may not necessarily have AIDS. An HIV-positive person can transmit it to others. It can take up to 10 years for AIDS to surface in infected people.
What Does It Mean to Have AIDS?
Having HIV/AIDS means that an infected woman cannot fight off certain diseases as well as uninfected women are able to. She is much more susceptible to infections, certain types of cancers and other life-threatening or fatal diseases. The most common way a woman is infected with HIV is through unprotected heterosexual intercourse with an infected partner. And, if that woman becomes pregnant, her baby is in danger of being a recipient of the infection.
Know Where You Stand
All women should be aware of their HIV status before becoming pregnant. Today there are many things that can be done to lessen the danger of passing HIV on to an unborn child and if a woman wants to have a baby, careful planning can make that desire a reality and reduce the risk to the baby. Doctors are able to advise which interventions are the best for this type of situation and whether she should adjust her treatments if she is already receiving them.
Where There's a Will
An HIV positive woman with an HIV negative partner can become pregnant,without putting her partner in danger, by using artificial insemination. This way, the man is totally protected; however, this does not reduce the risk to the baby. If the man is HIV positive, then the only effective way to avoid passing the virus is through sperm washing before IVF. Unfortunately, this very effective method is only available at certain clinics and may be difficult to access.
Help For the Baby
In order to reduce risk to the baby, these days there are many treatments which can be administered to the mother which help protect the unborn baby. Babies can be delivered by Caesarean Section, reducing the risk of contact with the mother's infected blood. Also, newborn babies are given courses of medications to help them fight the infection. Thankfully, there has been success in this area and deaths have been reduced significantly by using ever more effective drugs.