Testing for HIV during pregnancy
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 he or she gets the infection. If you are tested and find out you have any of these infections, treatment can usually prevent your baby from becoming infected and sick from these infections.
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 (CMV) or parvovirus.
Do I have to take these tests?
You could have caught any of these infections years ago and not know it. Most people who have these infections don't know that they have them since they don't 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 if 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. Be reassured that 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 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)*
Positive Living Society of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
Oak Tree Clinic
Vancouver, British Columbia
HIV clinic for women and children
Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE)
416-203-7122 or 1-800-263-1638
Provides up-to-date information, including a toll-free telephone line with confidential counselling and access to resources
St. Michael’s Hospital, the Positive Care Program
The Hospital for Sick Children’s HIV Clinic
The Teresa Group
Provides innovative programs, practical assistance and emotional support to children and their families
Canadian AIDS Society
Provides a list of AIDS service organizations across Canada
Sainte-Justine’s HIV Clinic
Provincial hotlines and major AIDS organizations
|British Columbia AIDS Information Line|
|Alberta AIDS Information Line|
|Saskatchewan AIDS Information Line|
|Manitoba AIDS Information Line|
|Ontario AIDS Information Line|
|Quebec AIDS Information Line|
|New Brunswick AIDS Hotline|
|AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia|
|Newfoundland and Labrador AIDS Committee Hotline|
|Yukon AIDS information Line|
|Northwest Territories AIDS Information Line|
* This is not an exhaustive list of available resources.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Last Updated: May 2018