Pregnancy outcomes and birth defects from an antiretroviral drug safety study of women in South Africa and Zambia

K. Cherry Liu, Mansour Farahani, Tshililo Mashamba, Muthuhadini Mawela, Jessica Joseph, Nienke Van Schaik, Engela Honey, Michelle Gill, Waasila Jassat, Elizabeth M. Stringer, Namiwnga Chintu, Richard G. Marlink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To evaluate the safety of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) in conception and pregnancy in different health systems. Design: A pilot ART registry to measure the prevalence of birth defects and adverse pregnancy outcomes in South Africa and Zambia. Methods: HIV-infected pregnant women on ART prior to conception were enrolled until delivery, and their infants were followed until 1 year old. Results: Between October 2010 and April 2011, 600 women were enrolled. The median CD4+ cell count at study enrollment was lower in South Africa than Zambia (320 vs. 430 cells/ml; P<0.01). The most common antiretroviral drugs at the time of conception included stavudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine. There were 16 abortions (2.7%), one ectopic pregnancy (0.2%), 12 (2.0%) stillbirths, and 571 (95.2%) live infants. Deliveries were more often preterm (29.7 vs. 18.4%; P=0.01) and the infants had lower birth weights (2900 vs. 2995 g; P=0.11) in Zambia compared to South Africa. Thirty-six infants had birth defects: 13 major and 23 minor. There were more major anomalies detected in South Africa and more minor ones in Zambia. No neonatal deaths were attributed to congenital birth defects. Conclusions: An Africa-specific, multi-site antiretroviral drug safety registry for pregnant women is feasible. Different prevalence for preterm delivery, delivery mode, and birth defect types betweenwomenon preconception ARTin South Africa and Zambia highlight the potential impact of health systemson pregnancy outcomes. As countries establishART drug safety registries, documenting health facility limitations may be as essential as the specific ART details.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2259-2268
Number of pages10
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • Birth defects
  • Drug safety
  • HIV
  • Pregnancy


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