HIV and pregnancy

HIV positive parents can have healthy pregnancies and children. In the photo there's an adult holding baby in their lap. They are holding the baby's feet in their palm.

Page last reviewed 3.12.2021

Can I have children?

HIV does not stop you from having children or a family. People living with HIV have the same rights to start a family as everyone else. When you are planning pregnancy, you should consult your doctor well beforehand. HIV medication for women of reproductive age should always be planned considering the possibility of pregnancy.

When on working medication, you cannot transmit HIV so you can conceive through intercourse.

If the man has HIV and the woman is HIV negative, the woman can consider taking preventive HIV medication (PrEP). Many couples still choose to conceive without preventive medication. The doctor in charge of the HIV treatment should evaluate the need for this.

If you do not get pregnant within one year of trying, you should consult the doctor responsible for your HIV treatment or a gynecologist to start fertility treatments. A person living with HIV can receive fertility treatment in Finland.

How does HIV affect pregnancy?

HIV infection should not affect your pregnancy and pregnancy should not affect the development of your HIV infection. Also for mothers living with HIV, the monitoring of the pregnancy is done in maternity health clinics, just like for all other expecting mothers’.

If the person who is pregnant is not on working medication, HIV can be transmitted from the mother to the fetus at any point of pregnancy. The biggest risk for transmission is in the end of pregnancy and during labor. HIV can also be transmitted through breastfeeding. The virus levels of the mother during labor are key to predicting the risk of transmission from mother to the child. This is why it is crucial to test for HIV and treat the infection during the pregnancy.

The child’s risk of getting the HIV infection from a mother who is taking their medication regularly is less than 1%. Without the medication the risk for transmission is high, between 15-40%. This means that if the mother is on working medication it is very likely that the child will be born healthy. There have been around 500 children who have been born healthy without HIV infection to an HIV positive parent in Finland.

Can I breastfeed?

It is not advised that a mother living with HIV breastfeeds. HIV medications can transfer to breastmilk and it is also possible for HIV to be transmitted from the mother to the baby via breastfeeding. That is why it is advised that the baby is fed with formula or donated breastmilk. After labor, the mother will be given medication that prevents milk production.

The everyday life of all families with children includes regular care of the baby, early interaction between the parents and the baby, supporting the individual growth and development of the child and taking care of the cleanliness, intimacy, sleep and safety of the baby. Hugging, kissing and holding the baby are important parts of everyday life with a baby in all families and carry no risk for transmitting HIV. Parents cannot infect their baby by accident through regular daily activities.