Treatment training manual

6. 4 Mother’s health and pregnancy

A mother’s own health (and her own treatment) is the most important consideration to ensure a healthy baby.

Overall, treatment for an HIV positive pregnant woman will be the same as for any HIV positive adult.

It is important that the mother receives support from an experienced healthcare team during her pregnancy.

Antenatal counselling for HIV positive women should always include:

  • Starting treatment, if a woman is diagnosed in pregnancy.
  • ART and pregnancy, if she is already taking it when she finds out she is pregnant.
  • Advice about preventing vertical transmission.


Pregnancy does not make a woman’s own health related to HIV get any worse. It will not make HIV progress any faster or slower.

HIV treatment (ART) actually stops HIV progressing and puts it on hold.

CD4 count

Pregnancy might cause a drop in a woman’s CD4 count.

This is can vary a lot but it is usually about 50 cells. It is not a real reduction in CD4 cells but the same amount in a larger amount of blood (which increases in pregnancy). The drop is only temporary. The CD4 count will normally return to the pre-pregnancy level soon after the baby is born.

Sometimes if a woman starts ART in pregnancy her CD4 count does not increase very much, even though the viral load goes down. The CD4 count catches up after the baby is born.

Opportunistic infections

In general, pregnant women need the same treatment to prevent opportunistic infections as people who are not pregnant.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.