Use of antiretroviral therapy by pregnant women with HIV may increase the risk of preterm birth, according to research published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology.

Results from the study also indicated that antiretroviral therapy had a similar effect on the rates of low birth weight and small-for-gestational age infants.

Louise-Helene Gagnon, MDCM, of the University of Toronto, and colleagues conducted a retrospective matched cohort study of 384 pregnant women between 2007 and 2012. The researchers compared outcomes of HIV-positive pregnant women undergoing antiretroviral therapy with HIV-negative controls.

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Before adjusting for potential confounding factors, the investigators found that women in the antiretroviral therapy group had an odds ratio of 2.6 for preterm birth, 2.9 for low birth weight, and 2.5 for small-for-gestational age infants, compared with HIV-negative women. After adjustment for race, the results were no longer statistically significant, though the odds ratios for all 3 outcomes were higher among women undergoing antiretroviral therapy, compared with HIV-negative women (1.4 for preterm birth, 1.9 for low birth weight, and 1.8 for small-for-gestational age infants).

“Our preliminary results show an increase in [preterm birth], [low birth weight], and [small for gestational age], but due to lack of power, our adjusted results are not statistically significant,” the authors wrote. “A larger prospective follow-up study is needed to further explore these findings in this population.”


  1. Gagnon LH, MacGillivray J, Urguia ML, et al. Antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy and risk of preterm birth. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2016;201:51-55.