Reassurance for pregnant women regarding ART side effects

Most pregnant women are concerned about taking medications, particularly in the first 3 months (trimester) of a pregnancy as this is a particularly vulnerable time for the foetus. People with chronic conditions usually need to keep taking their treatments during pregnancy and it is important that they understand how the benefits balance against the risk of doing so. In high income countries such as Canada and Australia the transmission of HIV from an HIV positive woman to child is very low (less than 1%) and this is essentially due to Anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Recent research in Canada reviewed health related information from pregnant women over a period of 17 years up until 2015 and data from 214,240 pregnancies, of which 343 were HIV positive women was looked at. Of the positive women, 174 went on ART in the first trimester of pregnancy and 169 did not take ART during the first trimester. The researchers found that women who did not take ART in the first trimester of pregnancy were significantly more likely to have babies with birth defects than the women who did take ART in the first trimester. The researchers stated that the study was reassuring for positive women who used ART in the first 3 months as the rate of major birth defects was not significantly different than in HIV negative women. The research by  Berard, A.,  Antiretroviral combination use during pregnancy and the risk of major genital malformations, AIDS (2017 in press). An in depth article about this study which includes other interesting findings and suggestions for further research is accessible in Catie News.

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