The news that one is HIV positive is devastating and scary. In the past, it was like being given a death sentence. Worst of all, the victim is deserted by friends/family members and treated like an outcast. Today, thanks to modern day medicine, an HIV or AIDS patient can live a normal life just like everyone else. The question now is: ‘Can HIV be passed from a mother to her unborn baby?’
The answer to that question is a big YES. An HIV expectant mother can infect her unborn child with the virus in three ways: during pregnancy; during delivery, and through breastfeeding.
In the past, it was impossible for an HIV victim to have a healthy and HIV-free baby. Today, the risk of a mother infecting her unborn baby with HIV is less than 2 percent. Nevertheless, there are steps she needs to take to achieve this. These steps are stated below:
(1) Get Tested
This is the first step to take. In the UK, as well as USA, all pregnant women are offered an HIV test as part of their antenatal screening. It’s my candid opinion that free HIV testing should be recommended for all pregnant women in all countries as part of their antenatal care programme. When HIV is diagnosed early, appropriate steps can be taken to ensure a hitch-free pregnancy and above all, reduce the risk of the infection being passed to the baby.
Without medication, a baby’s chances of contracting the virus can be as high as 25 percent. Some HIV medication can actually harm a foetus. It’s therefore, important that you consult your HIV clinic in case your treatment plan needs to be reviewed. Taking the right HIV drugs (antiretroviral drugs) as prescribed by your doctor can help significantly.
(3) Bottle-feed rather than Breast-feed
It’s advisable to feed baby with formula instead of breast milk because the virus can be transmitted through breast milk.
(4) Caesarean Section as opposed to Vaginal Delivery
During delivery, the chances of a baby being infected are very high. The best option is to have your baby delivered by C-section.
Treating the baby immediately after birth is highly necessary, even if baby’s tests results are negative. At birth, a baby can inherit some of the mum’s HIV antibodies. Although tests can be carried out on the baby, the results may not give a proper diagnosis. A proper diagnosis can be shown anywhere between six to eighteen months.
(5) Always Keep Your Antenatal Appointments
Visits to the doctor will help you stay in the best state of health possible during pregnancy.
(6) Live healthy
Just like any other pregnant woman, an HIV mum has to live healthy by eating healthy; avoiding alcohol and smoking; taking adequate rest; among others.
Remember, you can live a healthy life and raise a healthy family even as a person living with HIV/AIDS. You only have one life to live; BE HAPPY.