Can I Have Children if I Have HIV?
Yes, someone living with HIV can become a parent. But, since there is a potential to transmit HIV to an uninfected partner during conception or to the baby during pregnancy and childbirth, it is important to learn about the multiple ways to reduce these risks.
Discuss your hopes and plans for having children during your regular medical visits with your health care provider. These discussions (called “preconception care”) can help you, your partner, and your health care provider plan for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Here are some questions to ask your health care provider if you are considering starting a family. (The specific questions and answers will vary depending on whether you are a man or a woman living with HIV):
- When do I wish to conceive a baby?
- Is my viral load undetectable?
- What’s the safest way for my partner and I to conceive?
- How do I avoid transmitting HIV to my partner, surrogate, or baby during conception, pregnancy, and delivery?
- If my partner is on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), will we have a lower chance of transmitting HIV to our baby?
- If I become pregnant, will HIV cause problems for me during pregnancy or delivery?
- Will my baby have HIV?
- Will my HIV treatment cause problems for my baby?
- If I become pregnant, what medical and community programs and support groups can help me and my baby?
Answers to these questions can help you make the best-informed family planning decisions possible.
For a discussion of specific approaches to conceive when one or both partners are HIV-positive (including artificial insemination, timed unprotected intercourse, and the process known as sperm washing), see the VA’s FAQs on conception for people living with HIV.
Contraception and HIV
If you don’t want to become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about the best birth control methods for you. Be sure to discuss methods for both protecting against unintended pregnancy and HIV transmission or getting or transmitting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How Can I Reduce the Chance of Transmitting HIV to My Baby?
If you are a woman living with HIV, you can greatly lower your risk of passing HIV to your baby by taking a combination of HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Newborn babies born to HIV-infected mothers are also given HIV medicines to protect them.
Talk to your healthcare provider about HIV medicines for you and your baby before, during, and after your delivery.
And if you are already on ART, don’t stop taking your medicine. It is important to stay on treatment to protect your health and prevent passing HIV to your baby. But your HIV regimen may change during pregnancy. Work closely with your healthcare provider to find an HIV regimen that is right for you and always talk to your provider before making any changes.
Also talk to your health care provider about delivery options. For example, for women with a high or unknown HIV viral load near the time of delivery, a scheduled cesarean delivery (sometimes called a C-section) at 38 weeks of pregnancy is recommended to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
And because HIV can spread in breast milk, women with HIV in the United States should not breastfeed their babies. In the United States, infant formula is a safe and healthy alternative to breast milk.
If you are HIV-negative woman but your partner has HIV, ask your health care provider about PrEP, a daily pill that can prevent HIV during conception and pregnancy. Encourage your partner to get and stay on ART, which greatly reduces the chance that your partner will pass HIV to you.
Get tested for HIV when you are planning a pregnancy or as soon as possible after you find out you are pregnant.
You should be tested again in your third trimester if you engage in behaviors that put you at risk for HIV.
For more information, see our page, Pregnancy & Childbirth.
Is Adoption an Option?
Adopting a baby can be an option for people with HIV who want to begin or expand their families.
The American with Disabilities Act does not allow adoption agencies to discriminate against individuals or couples with HIV. If you are interested in adoption, contact a local HIV service provider for help in getting referred to organizations or agencies.
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
- AIDSInfo – Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV During Childbirth
- AIDSInfo – Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV After Birth
- AIDSInfo – The Use of HIV Medicines During Pregnancy
- AIDSInfo – Guidelines for HIV Testing in Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women
- AIDSInfo – Guidelines on Use of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant Women and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal Transmission in the U.S.
- CDC – HIV Among Pregnant Women, Infants and Children
- CDC – HIV Basics: Prevention
- CDC – One Test, Two Lives
- CDC - Provider Information Sheet: PrEP During Conception, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding
- HHS Office on Women’s Health – Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS
- HHS Office on Population Affairs – Guidelines for Providing Quality Family Planning Services
- HRSA – Guide to the Clinical Care of Women with HIV
Last revised: 10/02/2015