Treatment training manual

6. 7 ARVs in pregnancy: side effects

Women will be monitored in pregnancy for any side effects related to ART.

These are some important points about side effects in pregnancy.

Similar to non-pregnant adults
Approximately 8 out of 10 pregnant women taking ART will experience some side effects. This is similar to the proportion of people taking ART who are not pregnant.
Usually minor
Most side effects are minor and include nausea, feeling tired and diarrhoea. Sometimes, but more rarely, they can be very serious.
ART side effects and pregnancy changes
Some effects of HIV medicines are very similar to the changes that happen during pregnancy, eg morning sickness and the nausea caused by ART. This can make it harder to tell whether treatment or pregnancy is the cause.
Anaemia (low red blood cells)
This can cause tiredness. It is a very common side effect of both AZT and pregnancy. A simple blood test checks for this. If someone has anaemia they may need to take iron supplements.
There is a risk of developing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and diabetes during pregnancy. Women taking protease inhibitors in pregnancy might have a higher risk of this common complication. They should have glucose levels monitored and be screened for diabetes during pregnancy.
Increased bilirubin
Outside of pregnancy protease inhibitors have been associated with increased levels of bilirubin. While this is usually a measure of the health of the liver, it is not always the case. With atazanavir, bilirubin levels can be very high without causing problems.

Section 4: Side effects of ARVs

Last updated: 1 January 2016.