While it is possible for an HIV-negative woman to conceive naturally with an HIV-positive male partner without contracting the virus, she should take measures to protect herself. In this scenario, the only woman-controlled HIV prevention method is known as PrEP.
An acronym that stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP is available as the brand name medications Truvada and Descovy. When used correctly, the once-daily drug is more than 90 percent effective at preventing HIV infection.
Is PrEP Necessary When Trying to Conceive?
The short answer is: It depends. On what, you ask? To break it down, let’s start with some background.
Before attempting to get pregnant, both partners should be screened for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It is essential to know your and your significant other’s current statuses because HIV is most often passed during the weeks after acquisition, when viral load is high.
If, after screening, you learn your male partner is HIV-positive, while you remain HIV-negative, there are two options to consider before trying to conceive:
- The HIV-positive man can begin antiretroviral therapy, with the goal of having an undetectable viral load, thereby reducing the chance of transmission to the HIV-negative woman.
- The HIV-negative individual can take PrEP, decreasing the risk of contracting HIV.
According to research, when an HIV-positive man has an undetectable viral load thanks to antiretroviral therapy, the risk of HIV is reduced by 96 percent. Using condoms during nonfertile times lowers the risk even more. The downside of this method, though, is that it’s mostly out of the woman’s hands.
Only the choice to take PrEP puts the woman in complete control, as it does not require discussion or negotiation with her partner. She decides whether to take the medication.
For details about when to start PrEP before attempting to get pregnant, talk with a health care provider, such as those available through Nurx.
Should I Continue PrEP During Pregnancy?
Studies indicate that changes that take place in a pregnant woman’s body make her more susceptible to HIV infection. In addition, if a mother becomes infected during pregnancy, there is the chance she will transmit HIV to the fetus.
This combination of increased risk makes keeping pregnant women and their babies protected a high priority. Therefore, experts recommend that HIV-negative women who have HIV-positive male partners use PrEP throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding to protect them and their infants from infection.
Is PrEP Safe During Pregnancy?
The long-term safety of PrEP taken by HIV-negative women during pregnancy has not been fully determined. However, there have been no reports of health problems associated with PrEP when used by women in early pregnancy. PrEP is widely regarded as safe during pregnancy.
Any medication taken while pregnant will come in contact with the baby. The baby will be exposed to the medicines in PrEP, but there is no documentation that shows an increased chance of birth defects. Most pregnant women who take Truvada or Descovy tolerate it well.
When deciding whether to take PrEP during pregnancy, it’s important to evaluate the risks of not being protected from HIV. For many mothers-to-be, the benefit of protecting themselves and their babies from HIV infection is worth it.
If you are an HIV-negative woman who is at risk for HIV infection, now is the time to think about starting PrEP. Visit Nurx.com to learn more about the medication and how it can put your mind at ease, especially if you hope to get pregnant in the near future.
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