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close this bookHIV in Pregnancy: A Review (UNAIDS, 1999, 67 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsAntenatal care
View the documentCare during labour and delivery
View the documentPostpartum care
View the documentCare of neonates

Care during labour and delivery

Care during labour for HIV positive women should follow routine practice in most respects. Prolonged rupture of membranes should be avoided, as mother-to-child transmission is increased where membranes are ruptured for more than four hours119. Artificial rupture of membranes should not be undertaken if progress of labour is adequate. Given these advantages, this may be introduced as a routine part of the management of labour for all women in high prevalence areas.

There are conflicting reports of the importance of obstetric interventions in the facilitation of transmission111,113. As a general rule, any procedure which breaks the baby's skin or increases the baby's contact with the mother's blood - such as scalp electrodes or scalp blood sampling - should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, due to the unconfirmed magnitude of the risk of these for HIV transmission. Universal precautions should be applied in managing labouring women in all cases. Episiotomy should not be performed routinely, but reserved for those cases with an obstetrical indication.

If an assisted delivery is required, forceps may be preferable to vacuum extraction, given the risk of micro-lacerations of the scalp from the vacuum cup. There is increasing evidence that elective Caesarean section may help prevent transmission of HIV to the baby225. The operation carries risks of maternal complications and is associated with higher post operative morbidity in HIV positive women110. The decision on Caesarean section delivery should be made on an individual basis, taking into account the available facilities, and will not be possible in most developing countries with high HIV prevalence. Prophylactic antibiotics should be given for both elective and emergency Caesarean sections.