HIV-positive pregnant women may get a health benefit along with their bundles of joy. A new study found that during pregnancy, positive women on HIV meds had higher CD4 counts and lower viral loads and were less likely to progress to AIDS than their non-pregnant positive peers.

From 1997 to 2004, Timothy Sterling, MD, and colleagues studied 759 women. Seventy-one percent took HIV meds; 18 percent had one or more pregnancies. Moms-to-be tended to be younger, with higher CD4s and lower viral loads to begin with. But even  accounting for that, pregnant women still appeared healthier overall.

“There may be a beneficial interaction between pregnancy, HIV and [HIV therapy],” Sterling says. It’s not clear, he adds, whether the results were produced by hormone fluctuations or by self-care. “It could be that when pregnant, women are so motivated to get HIV under control that they’re more adherent,” Sterling says. The research didn’t track how faithfully the women took their meds.

Pending further studies—to see, for example, how long the health benefits last after the baby is born—this one may reassure prospective positive parents.