Background: The benefits of combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) in HIV-positive pregnant women (improved maternal health and prevention of mother to child transmission [pMTCT]) currently outweigh the adverse effects due to cART. As the variety of cART increases, however, the question arises as to which type of cART is safest for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. We studied the effect of timing and exposure to different classes of cART on adverse birth outcomes in a large HIV cohort in the Netherlands.
Materials and methods: We included singleton HEU infants registered in the ATHENA cohort from 1997 to 2015. Multivariate logistic regression analysis for single and multiple pregnancies was used to evaluate predictors of small for gestational age (SGA, birth weight <10th percentile for gestational age), low birth weight and preterm delivery.
Results: A total of 1392 children born to 1022 mothers were included. Of these, 331 (23.8%) children were SGA. Women starting cART before conception had an increased risk of having a SGA infant compared to women starting cART after conception (OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.03-1.77, p = 0.03). The risk for SGA was highest in women who started a protease inhibitor-(PI) based regimen prior to pregnancy, compared with women who initiated PI-based cART during pregnancy. While the association of preterm delivery and preconception cART was significant in univariate analysis, on multivariate analysis only a non-significant trend was observed (OR 1.39, 95% CI 0.94-1.92, p = 0.06) in women who had started cART before compared to after conception. In multivariate analysis, the risk of low birth weight (OR 1.34, 95% CI 0.94-1.92, p = 0.11) was not significantly increased in women who had started cART prior to conception compared to after conception.
Conclusion: In our cohort of pregnant HIV-positive women, the use of cART prior to conception, most notably a PI-based regimen, was associated with intrauterine growth restriction resulting in SGA. Data showed a non-significant trend in the risk of PTD associated with preconception use of cART compared to its use after conception. More studies are needed with regard to the mechanisms taking place in the placenta during fetal growth in pregnant HIV-positive women using cART. It will only be with this knowledge that we can begin to understand the potential impact of HIV and cART on the fetus, in order to be able to determine the optimal individualised drug regimen for HIV-infected women of childbearing age.