Get Tested For HIV If You Are Pregnant

Pregnancy is God’s gift to mankind which helps to propagate the human race to grow. It is a physiological phenomenon which brings about a lot of changes in a woman’s body. It is very important to take utmost care through the 9 months of pregnancy, as the health of mother and baby are at stake.

Ante Natal Care

Ante natal care includes all the medical and non medical care provided to the expectant mother. Certain parameters have been established which are followed through the pregnancy which ensure that the health of mother and baby are monitored continuously. Blood tests, sonography, physical examination, consumption of iron, calcium and vitamin supplements at regular intervals are part of the ante natal care.

Monitoring the health of the pregnant woman and her unborn baby, detecting any health abnormalities and treating them promptly are the goals of ante natal care. With advanced medical science, modern diagnostic tests, newer medicines, it is possible to provide high quality ante natal care.

HIV and pregnancy

One of the important blood tests done as a part of routine ante natal care is to detect presence of HIV, which is a virus responsible for causing AIDS. It is a dreaded condition, because medical research has yet not been able to come up with a medicine which will act on the virus and negate its effects. HIV gets transmitted if a healthy person comes in contact with the body fluids (blood, sweat, urine, saliva, stools) of an infected person. It will not cause instant death, but deterioration of health will be gradual. The person may be even abel to live healthily for many months to years before the virus starts affecting them. If a pregnant women contacts this infection, there is high possibility of the virus being transmitted to the unborn child. The passing on of infection could occur during pregnancy, during delivery or while breastfeeding. This will be fatal for both the mother and unborn child and may also result in hazardous consequences. It is therefore very important to perform this blood test to rule out presence of the deadly virus.

What is HIV blood test?

HIV can be detected by performing some blood tests. These are not simple tests, but slightly advanced technology and more study is needed to determine the results for HIV test. The tests have been described below:

  • ELISA:

It is one of the oldest and most reliable primary tests for HIV. Whenever there is any harmful element present in the human body, antibodies are generated to counter the effects of this element. Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) confirms the presence of antibodies synthesized to fight HIV infection.

However, this test alone is not enough to give a positive diagnosis. A second test known as western blot test is done if ELISA results are positive.

  • Western Blot test:

This is the test which detects presence of the virus itself. Protein bands which are characteristic to the HIV virus, are detected by this test. Positive result is a sure indication that the person has indeed been infected.

  • PCR test:

PCR tests are generally done to study the genetic material. In case of HIV, the test will be useful in detecting presence of DNA of the virus, which will be circulating in the blood of an infected person.

  • White blood cell count:

CD4 cells are a type of white blood cells

These tests have been providing accurate results and are extremely useful in diagnosing the presence of HIV infection.

What can be done if HIV test is positive during pregnancy?

There is a general feeling of anxiety experienced by the expectant parents during pregnancy. Anticipation of the new baby is accompanied with worry about the pregnancy going smoothly without any complications. If HIV test gives positive results, it will burden the couple even more. Fortunately medicinal and other forms of treatment are available to minimize the health damage and risks to the mother and fetus. It is always beneficial to get HIV test done in all pregnant women. Early detection of the condition will lead to early treatment and further complications can be avoided. Following steps can be taken to avert harm to the fetus and mother in case of positive HIV test:

  • HIV belongs to the class of retroviruses. Anti-retroviral therapy considers of medicines which are effective in curbing the effect of retrovirsues. It is started immediately for the mother. Dosage and repetition of the medicines is dependent on the intensity of the infection. Medicines should be monitored and dose can be altered if the woman does not tolerate the treatment well. The medicines are to be continued after delivery as well for a specified period of time.

  • HIV infection will greatly compromise the immune system. Hence it is essential to avoid contacting any other infection which will affect the immunity even more. Pregnant women should care for their health and the slightest symptoms related to any health condition should be reported immediately to the doctor.

  • Regular follow ups should be done with the gynecologist and the doctor who is taking care of the HIV infection.

  • At the time of delivery, the gynecologist will opt for C-section, as normal delivery could pose a higher risk of transmission of the infection from mother to baby. Utmost care has to be taken to minimize contact of the baby with the amniotic fluid, mother’s blood, urine or stool.

  • The woman can undergo counseling prior to delivery. She will be taught how to care for her new born and how to avoid transmission of infection to the baby. If HIV is detected early in the pregnancy then the woman can be counseled about the risks and outcome of pregnancy. The decision to proceed with pregnancy or terminate it is finally taken by the expectant parents.

  • There is confusion in the minds of new mothers whether they can breastfeed their baby without transmitting HIV infection to them. Research has revealed that breast feeding is safe if the woman continues with anti-retroviral medicines as per the doctor’s advise. Lactation counseling facilities are available which will guide the women and provide them with the best feeding options.

  • The baby’s blood is also tested for HIV infection. If the results are positive, an infectious disease specialist and pediatrician have to be consulted to being treatment.

HIV is often dreaded for the long term debilitating changes it brings about. It may be very difficult to deal with the fact that a person has tested positive for HIV. Nevertheless, it is very important, for pregnant ladies to rule out the condition. It is always better to be safe than being sorry.

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