An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby in during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding.
If you are a woman living with with HIV and you are pregnant, treatment with a combination of HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) can prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and protect your health. The treatment is most effective for preventing HIV transmission to babies when started as early as possible during pregnancy. However, there are still great benefits to beginning treatment even during labor or shortly after the baby is born.
How Can You Prevent Giving HIV to Your Baby?
Women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy should get tested for HIV as early as possible. If you have HIV, the most important thing you can do is to take medicines to treat HIV infection (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) the right way, every day.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to keep you and your child from getting HIV. Women in their third trimester should be tested again if they engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV.
If you are HIV-negative and you have an HIV-positive partner, talk to your doctor about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help keep you from getting HIV. Encourage your partner to take medicines to treat HIV (ART), which greatly reduces the chance that he could transmit HIV to you.
If you have HIV, take medicines to treat HIV (ART) the right way, every day. If your viral load is not suppressed, your doctor may talk with you about options for delivering the baby that can reduce transmission risk. After birth, babies born to a mother with HIV are given ART right away for 4 to 6 weeks. If you are treated for HIV early in your pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be 1% or less. Breast milk can have HIV in it. So, after delivery, you can prevent giving HIV to your baby by not breastfeeding.
Learn more about how to protect yourself and your child, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).