The Polymerase Chain Reaction test (PCR) is used to test chromosomal abnormalities like Downs syndrome. It is also used to test your unborn child’s HIV status.
PCR testing should be done between the 10th to 20th week of pregnancy. When a pregnant mother passes on the HIV virus to her unborn child it is called PTCT (Parent To Child Transmission)
The Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that as from 1 April 2013 all pregnant women who are HIV positive – regardless of their CD4 count – will begin a course of fixed-dose combination (FDC) medication as from the 14th week of the pregnancy. This treatment will continue throughout the pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding period. After the breast feeding period, women with a CD4 count lower than 350 will receive FDCs for life.
Antenatal Care is very important for you and your unborn child. Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) forms a part of prenatal care. If you are HIV positive, you may receive ARV medication if your viral count is high. A high viral count means there is an increased chance of passing the virus to your child.
Ask your health carer about the birth process. Because the baby comes into contact with a lot of fluids during vaginal birth that contain the HIV virus, it might be safer to have a Caesarean.
In most cases an HIV positive mother can breastfeed her baby. Discuss breastfeeding with your health carer as there might be problems if your breasts have sores or your nipples are cracked or if the baby has oral thrush.
During pregnancy and while breast feeding, eating healthily is a top priority for you and your unborn child:
Eat foods that give you energy like bread, maize, rice and potatoes.
Eat body building foods such as meat, milk, eggs and beans.
Eat foods that protect your body like vitamin and mineral supplements, fresh fruit and vegetables.
There is no reason for an HIV positive mother not to enjoy her pregnancy and her baby. Discuss your questions with your health carer. Join the support groups in your area. If there are no support groups, you might just be the person to begin one. Remember, sharing is caring!