Management of Herpes in Pregnancy, meeting people with herpes
Herpes in Pregnancy
In some cases herpes is transmitted
to infants at the time of delivery if the baby comes into direct
contact with herpes on the way through the birth canal. Herpes
infections in newborns are rare, but they can be
life-threatening. For this reason, pregnant women and their
partners are well-advised to take steps to keep this risk to a
If you already have genital herpes: If you had genital
herpes before you became pregnant, your risk of transmitting the
infection to your baby during childbirth is very low as long as
no active herpes signs or symptoms are present in or near the
birth canal at the time of delivery.
If no signs or symptoms of herpes are present when you go
into labor, you can expect to have a normal vaginal birth. Women
who have long-standing herpes infections transmit protective
antibodies to their fetuses during pregnancy. The antibodies
help to protect the baby from an infection, even if some virus
is present in the birth canal.
If you do have signs or symptoms of herpes when you start
labor, your doctor will deliver your baby by cesarean section
(abdominal delivery). This will protect your baby from exposure
to the large quantities of virus that are likely present in the
birth canal or on the skin during a herpes outbreak.
If you do not have genital herpes: If you have never had
genital herpes, you will need to take steps to ensure you do not
get the infection during your pregnancy. A woman who gets herpes
for the first time while pregnant has a significant risk of
transmitting the virus to her baby during childbirth. One reason
for this is the relatively high rate of viral shedding in the
first six months after acquiring infection. Another is the fact
that the mother will not have developed her immune response to
herpes, including the antibodies that are passed to the fetus in
If your husband or partner has genital herpes and you
don't, your doctor may recommend that you use condoms every time
you have intercourse throughout your pregnancy. In addition,
your doctor may recommend that you abstain from intercourse
during your last trimester, which is the most dangerous time to
develop a first-episode infection. If you have questions about
whether you or your partner are infected, a type-specific blood
test can tell you.
If you become infected in the first trimester, vaginal delivery
may still be possible. With a new infection after the first
trimester, however, your doctor will deliver your baby by
cesarean section whether or not active herpes signs or symptoms
are present at the time of delivery. Your doctor also may
recommend antiviral medication during pregnancy.
How Can a Blood Test be Used During Pregnancy?
Because the highest risk of neonatal herpes occurs when a woman
acquires herpes during pregnancy, some experts advocate testing
to find out whether a woman is at high risk. Those in the
high-risk category are women who test negative for HSV-1 and
HSV-2 but have a partner who has herpes. Therefore, a woman who
tests negative will need her partner’s cooperation as
What Are the Signs of Herpes in a Newborn?
Skin sores, fever, listlessness and lack of appetite are among
the early symptoms or neonatal herpes. Without prompt treatment,
brain or nervous system damage may occur, and some babies will
die from this infection.
While herpes infection can be devastating to a newborn, it is
rare. Nearly one in every three women of childbearing age in the
United States today has the virus that causes genital herpes.
Yet fewer than 1 in every 2,000 newborns develops the infection.
Good prenatal care may reduce this already small risk even