HIV-positive women are much more likely to suffer from anaemia and high blood pressure in pregnancy and deliver babies with lower birth weights and retarded growth, a new study has shown.
Researchers at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, Souuth Africa, compared 212 HIV-positive mothers-to-be with 101 HIV-negative women, finding that HIV-positive women run a significantly higher risk of developing anaemia compared with women who were HIV-negative.
“This can lead to lower tolerance to severe bleeding after birth, one of the most common causes of maternal death,” Candice Bodkin, lead researcher and lecturer at the university’s Department of Nursing Education, said.
Bodkin said it has already been established that HIV and AIDS can exaggerate some of the problems normally experienced in pregnancy.
But “we believe that this is the first study to link being HIV- positive and pregnant with higher levels of anemia and raised blood pressure,” Bodkin said. The findings were published in the international Journal of Clinical Nursing.
According to the research, other key problems facing the HIV-positive women included: An increased risk of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension, but no greater risk of developing the potentially life-threatening eclampsia; lower maternal weight, with HIV-positive women weighing 6 percent less than women who tested negative and five percent lower birth weight and chance of growth retardation in the womb.
Bodkin said it was very important to raise awareness of health issues among HIV-positive women who are pregnant, since the Department of Health has linked the high rates of maternal illness and death in South Africa with the absence of accepted and practical guidance for dealing with women who are pregnant and HIV-positive.
“Latest statistics suggest that more than a quarter of pregnant women in South Africa are HIV-positive and that global rates are continuing to rise,” Bodkin said.
The researchers chose the HIV and non-HIV groups from 1,540 women receiving prenatal care at Johannesburg General Hospital over a 15-month period. Over 31 percent of 776 women who agreed to be tested were found HIV-positive.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 23, 2006.