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Pregnancy Complications

HIV/AIDS in Pregnancy

How to Lower Baby's Risk for HIV Infection

Your baby doesn't have to be born HIV positive just because you're infected. In fact, the risk for passing HIV to your baby can now be reduced to just two percent, according to a new study by The International Perinatal HIV Group that followed the pregnancies of 8,500 HIV-positive mothers in Europe and North America. The researchers found that a combination of prenatal treatment and delivery method is responsible for this dramatic drop in the rate of infection transmission.

Previous studies have shown that if a mother takes AZT during her pregnancy and labor and delivery, and her baby starts AZT soon after birth, the baby's risk for HIV infection are significantly reduced. Now researchers have found that delivery by Cesarean section reduces the risk even more. For best results, the C-section should be done before labor begins and your water breaks, which is actually the breaking of the membrane that holds the amniotic fluid that surrounds and cushions the baby. As long as the membrane is intact, your baby is fairly well protected from infection. Once the membrane breaks, the baby is at risk for infection by any organisms traveling up the birth canal. That's why most nurse-midwives and physicians recommend going to the hospital or birthing center once a woman's water breaks.

Here's the figures. Nineteen percent of babies born to women who delivered vaginally and had no AZT treatments were infected with HIV. In those who had a C-section but no AZT treatments, the rate of infection was 10.4 percent. With AZT treatments and vaginal delivery, the rate was 7.3 percent. In women who had both AZT treatments and a C-section, the rate of infection was just two percent.

This study was originally scheduled for publication in the "England Journal of Medicine" later in the year. However, the information was so important that the findings were released early. This combination of AZT and C-section is viewed as a major breakthrough in AIDS prevention, and one that every HIV-positive woman should know about.

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