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Home: Diseases & Conditions: Genital Herpes: Pregnancy & Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes: Pregnancy & Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes & Pregnancy

Herpes can be dangerous if a newborn gets infected with it during birth or after birth. This naturally causes concern amongst women who are worried about genital herpes. Many questions come into mind. Here we are speaking of both kinds of viruses- HSV1 and HSV2.

Questions that may arise are- if a woman is already infected with herpes, what would happen if she gets pregnant? How to protect the newborn child? Will the child be born with herpes or not? What if a woman gets infected with herpes during pregnancy? How will that affect her child? Many such questions come up in relation to genital herpes and pregnancy.

Unless you are aware of all the facts and safety measures, you can get a child infected with herpes and that may be very bad for the child. Let us discuss this.

How does herpes affect an infant?
HSV infection can cause neonatal herpes, a life-threatening disease. Neonatal herpes can cause mental retardation, damage central nervous system, cause infection on skin, eye or mouth and create other complications. Medication can help prevent the damage or reduce it, if taken in time. Let us first talk about women who already have herpes and are planning to get pregnant.

Herpes before pregnancy
If the mother were already infected with herpes before pregnancy, she would have developed antibodies of herpes. These antibodies are passed on to her child through placenta. Such children are relatively safer. You should also discuss about herpes with your doctor in the early stages of pregnancy. You should discuss with your doctor if you could take any therapy for herpes during pregnancy.

Herpes during the last trimester
Mothers who contract herpes during the last trimester of pregnancy may not have developed antibodies for herpes. The newborn children of such mothers are more at risk. Unless you are sure that your partner is herpes-free, you should avoid any sex during last trimester. Your partner should not perform oral sex if he has any signs of cold sores. To be fully safe you may wish to get your partner tested for herpes.

How to protect the baby?
If you have had herpes for quite some time, the risk of your baby getting herpes is small. You should discuss this with your doctor.

Be aware about any outbreak of active herpes during the period of pregnancy. If you have active outbreak at the time of delivery your doctor will decide about the mode of delivery considering safety of both the child and the mother.

Avoid any sex or oral contact with herpes infected partner during the pregnancy period especially the last trimester.

Do not allow anyone with cold sores to kiss the baby. If you have cold sores, always wash your hands with soap and water before touching the baby.

Partner of a pregnant mother
The partner of a pregnant mother should get tested for herpes even if he shows no outward sign of herpes. If he is found to be suffering from herpes, it is advisable to abstain from sexual activity during pregnancy.

The US FDA has not approved any antiviral medication for pregnant mothers. Some women do take antiviral medication during pregnancy.

Article updated on: May 26, 2008

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