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Testing for HIV during pregnancy

Highlights
  • Even if you had an HIV test done before pregnancy and it was negative, you should have the test done again during each pregnancy.  
  • Most babies born to HIV-positive mothers will NOT get HIV if mothers are treated during pregnancy and delivery and babies are treated in the first few weeks after birth.

I am pregnant. What tests for should be done for infection?

You should be tested for hepatitis B, syphilis, group B streptococcus, Chlamydia trachomatis, gonorrhea and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in every pregnancy. All these infections can hurt your baby if she gets the infection. If you are tested and find out you have any of these infections, treatment can usually prevent your baby from getting it too.

You should also be tested for rubella (German measles) if you do not know if you are immune. Knowing if you are not immune can help you avoid getting rubella while pregnant. If you are not immune, you can get the rubella vaccine after your baby is born so that you will not get rubella in the future. In some provinces, pregnant women are tested for chickenpox for the same reason.

Depending on your medical history, tests may also be done for other infections such as cytomegalovirus or parvovirus.

Do I have to take these tests?

You could have caught any of these infections years ago and still not know. Most people who have these infections do not know that they have them as they do not have symptoms. These tests are offered to you for your own health and the health of your baby.

You can choose to not have the tests done. However this decision could hurt your baby.

Why should I have an HIV test during pregnancy?

If you have HIV and are not treated, there is a 1 in 4 risk that your baby will have HIV. If you are treated, the risk drops to about 1 in 100. Most babies born to HIV-positive mothers will NOT get HIV if mothers are treated during pregnancy and delivery and babies are treated in the first few weeks after birth. Treatment will also improve your health.

How is the HIV test done?

It is done with a regular blood test. 

I already had a blood test during this pregnancy. Wouldn’t they have checked it for HIV?

There are many reasons to do blood tests during your pregnancy. Ask your doctor or midwife if you are not sure if a test for HIV was done. Even if you had an HIV test done before pregnancy and it was negative, you should have the test done again during each pregnancy.  

Is there anything else I should know about being tested for HIV?

The decision to take the test and then wait for the results can be very stressful. If your test result is HIV-positive, you will have many decisions to make.

Even though it is stressful, you need this information to decide what is best for you and your family. There is support available if you find out you are HIV-positive during your pregnancy. 

How do people get HIV?

HIV is passed from one person to another:

  • through sexual intercourse (although it’s much less likely if a condom is used properly),
  • through blood (for example, by sharing needles or syringes), and/or
  • from mother to baby.

Most women with HIV have been infected through sexual intercourse. Many of these women did not know their partner was HIV-positive.

If you use drugs or get a new sexual partner while you are pregnant, or do not totally trust your partner, you should be tested for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B at the beginning and near the end of each pregnancy. No one will think badly of you if you ask to be tested again. They will know you are trying to do the best thing for your baby.

I am thinking about getting pregnant. Should I have a test for HIV? 

You and your partner may both want to be tested for HIV. If one of you is positive, there are still ways for you to get pregnant without spreading the HIV. 

Where can I find more information on HIV and pregnancy? 

Call your doctor or local public health unit (or CLSC in the province of Quebec). 

Additional resources for pregnant women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)*

National

British Columbia Persons with AIDS Society (Vancouver, British Columbia) 604-893-2200 or 1-800-994-2437
www.bcpwa.org
 
Oak Tree Clinic (Vancouver, British Columbia)
HIV clinic for women and children
604-875-2212
www.bcwomens.ca
 
Positive Women’s Network (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Provides support, information community education and advocacy for women with HIV
604-692-3000 or 1-866-692-3001
www.pwn.bc.ca
 

Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange
(Toronto, Ontario)
Provides up-to-date information, including a toll-free telephone line with confidential counselling and access to resources
 

1-800-263-1638
www.catie.ca (bilingual)
Motherisk HIV Healthline (Toronto, Ontario)
An HIV counsellor answers questions from women or care providers on HIV and pregnancy
 
1-888-246-5840
www.motherisk.org
The Hospital for Sick Children’s HIV Clinic
(Toronto, Ontario)
416-813-5141
www.sickkids.ca
 
The Teresa Group (Toronto, Ontario)
Provides innovative programs, practical assistance and emotional support to children and their families
 
416-596-7703
www.teresagroup.ca
Canadian AIDS Society (Ottawa, Ontario)
Provides a list of AIDS service organizations across Canada
 
1-800-499-1986
To access, under ‘Contacts and Links’, choose ‘Hotlines’
www.cdnaids.ca
Sainte-Justine’s HIV Clinic (Montreal, Quebec) 514-345-4836
www.hsj.qc.ca/Home/default.aspx
 
The Centre for AIDS Services of Montreal (Women)
(Montreal, Quebec)
514-495-0990
www.netrover.com/~casm (bilingual)
 
HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service (USA)
Provides information on American treatment guidelines for HIV and AIDS
 
www.aidsinfo.nih.gov

Provincial hotlines and major AIDS organizations

British Columbia AIDS Information Line 1-800-661-4337
Alberta AIDS Information Line 1-800-772-2437
Saskatchewan AIDS Information Line 1-800-667-6876
Manitoba AIDS Information Line 1-800-782-2437
Ontario AIDS Information Line 1-800-668-2437
Quebec AIDS Information Line 1-888-855-7432
New Brunswick AIDS Hotline 1-800-561-4009
AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia 1-800-566-2437
AIDS PEI 1-800-314-2437
Newfoundland and Labrador AIDS Committee Hotline 1-800-563-1575
Yukon AIDS information Line 1-800-661-0408 ext 8323
Northwest Territories AIDS Information Line 1-800-661-0844

* This is not an exhaustive list of available resources.


Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee

Last Updated: June 2013