Having Children

Can I have children if I have HIV?  

Yes. If you want to be a parent, having HIV should not stop you. There are several options for HIV-positive women and men who want to be parents.

If you are an HIV-positive woman and you are pregnant - or want to become pregnant - talk to your healthcare provider. There are drugs you can take before pregnancy and during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to help prevent your baby from being infected with HIV. Your healthcare provider can prepare treatment plans for you and your baby through all of these stages. 

Can I transmit HIV to my baby?  

Yes, HIV-positive mothers can transmit HIV to their babies. This is called "mother-to-child transmission." (It is also called "perinatal" or "vertical transmission.") An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby in 3 ways: 

  • During pregnancy
  • During vaginal childbirth
  • Through breastfeeding

However, with proper treatment and coordination with healthcare providers, HIV-positive mothers can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their babies. 

What are the risks of transmitting HIV during pregnancy and childbirth?  

An HIV-positive mother who is not being treated for her HIV during pregnancy, labor, or delivery has a 25% chance (1 in 4) of passing the virus to her baby.

However, antiretroviral drugs can protect babies from HIV infection. When an HIV-positive mother receives antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, labor, and delivery; has her baby by Caesarian section; and avoids breastfeeding, the chance of passing the infection to her baby falls to less than 2% (fewer than 2 in 100). (The newborn babies are also given treatment after birth to protect them.)

Of course, some women do not find out they are HIV-positive until they are already in labor. But there are still treatment options that can help protect their babies. If they receive antiretroviral drugs during labor and delivery and avoid breastfeeding, the chance of passing the infection to the baby can still be significantly reduced.

Should my baby be tested for HIV?  

If you are HIV-positive, then yes, your baby should be tested for HIV. However, the test used for babies of HIV-positive mothers is a little different from other HIV tests.

Most HIV tests look for antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself. But these tests aren’t very useful for babies born to HIV-positive mothers. That’s because the mother’s HIV antibodies get into the baby’s blood during pregnancy. If the mother is HIV-positive, the regular HIV test will show that the baby is HIV-positive, even when that isn’t true.

Healthcare providers can use special HIV tests on children who are younger than 18 months old. These tests can detect very small quantities of the virus itself in the children’s blood. At a minimum, babies born to HIV-positive mothers should be tested at three different times:

  • At 14 to 21 days after birth
  • At 1 to 2 months of age
  • At 3 to 6 months of age

In almost all cases (95%), the special test can tell whether a baby has HIV by the time he or she is 3 months old.

Even if the tests show that your baby does not have HIV, if you take antiretroviral drugs during your pregnancy, your baby should receive long-term follow-up care by a healthcare provider.

Other resources  

For more information about planning your pregnancy and protecting your health and the health of your baby during pregnancy, delivery and after, refer to this HIV, Pregnancy and Women's Health booklet.

The above information was sourced from www.aids.gov