Pregnancy and Herpes: 
How will Herpes affect my Baby?

Statistics show that women who experience pregnancy and herpes are likely to have a higher risk of spontaneous abortions, preterm labors, and miscarriages.

That's because transmission of the Herpes Simplex Virus to the baby, while in the uterus or during delivery, can cause retarded fetal growth and congenital herpes. 

Having genital or oral herpes can be terrifying as it is, and an even more serious matter when acquired in pregnancy.

Fortunately, you can do something about it!

With the advanced medical and health care systems today, complications due to pregnancy and herpes can be prevented. 

If you’re pregnant with herpes and are worried about your baby's safety, then read on to find out what risks are involved and what precautions you can take to ensure a healthy and safe delivery.

What are the ways in which the herpes virus
can be transmitted to my baby?

The Herpes Simplex Virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, and in the case of pregnancy and herpes, can be passed on to a baby in a number of ways:

  1. Congenital Herpes- this occurs when the baby acquires the virus while inside the uterus of the mother. This is also known as neonatal herpes and is somewhat rare (less than 0.1% of babies born to genital herpes positive mothers are born with congenital herpes).
  2. Birth-Acquired Herpes- this is the most common infection which happens when a baby passes through the birth canal of a mother with an active herpes outbreak.
  3. Postpartum Herpes- the herpes virus is acquired after birth due to kissing (oral herpes) or being directly exposed to an active sore from other body parts of a person with herpes.

All these are ways in which the herpes virus can be transferred to your baby. So proper precaution and management should be taken to ensure this doesn't happen.

I’m pregnant and diagnosed with mild genital herpes.
Is this going to affect my baby?

As with herpes of any kind, it is important that you inform your attending physician even if you experience mild genital herpes symptoms during the course of your pregnancy. Note that even though you only have mild genital herpes symptoms, there is still a chance of transmitting the infection to your baby. 

You might be worried right now and that is understandable. But do know that with proper care and management of the infection, you will still be able to deliver a healthy and herpes-free baby.

Make sure to inform your attending physician of your health status before labor so that he or she may take the necessary steps to prepare you and your baby for the delivery.

What are the necessary precautions to take
during pregnancy and herpes?

herpes and pregnancy

If you've acquired the herpes virus before you became pregnant, it is likely that your baby will be just fine. Your body has had the time to adapt to the virus and develop antibodies against it. This natural immunity will actually protect your unborn baby while it’s still growing inside of you.

If you’ve become infected during the first three months of your pregnancy, there is a rare but unfortunate risk of miscarriage. This is because your baby would not have the chance to attach itself firmly to your uterus yet. Best is to advise your midwife or doctor so they can prescribe you with antiviral medications and provide necessary information to permit a safe delivery.

Finally, if you’ve acquired herpes during your last trimester, it is essential that you inform your doctor. Instead of a vaginal delivery, you may have to undergo a Caesarean section, which will reduce the risk of passing the infection to your baby. A C-section is also your safest option if you go into premature labor.

Should I have a Caesarean section during
pregnancy and herpes?

Opting for a caesarean section during pregnancy and herpes instead of a normal delivery can eliminate the likelihood of transmitting the virus to your baby, especially if you've acquired the herpes virus at a later time during pregnancy. However, if you insist on a normal spontaneous vaginal delivery (NSVD) and are symptom-free, a thorough discussion about the risks involved with your physician should provide the information you need to make that important decision.

Is it safe to breastfeed during a herpes outbreak?

If you happen to have herpes sores on your breasts, then it is definitely a NO. Since the mode of transmission for the herpes virus is through skin-to-skin contact, it is not safe to breastfeed as long as sores are still present on your breast area. Thoroughly clean and cover the affected area to avoid accidentally exposing the sores to the baby. If you do have a lesion on only one breast, opt to breastfeed your baby with the other non-infected breast. Again, precaution should be observed.

What if I get a cold sore outbreak after delivery,
can I still handle my baby?

If you have an active cold sore on your lips, avoid kissing your baby until the lesion dries up and scabs. One juicy peck on the cheek or lips is enough to transmit the virus. If you must handle your baby, consider wearing a surgical mask and doubling up on your antiviral herpes medication to reduce the frequency of cold sore outbreaks.

Could I be positive for genital herpes and not know it?

Yes. Some people with genital herpes never get to experience an outbreak. This could be because they live healthy lifestyles or have strong immune systems. It could also indicate that they don’t get the usual signs and symptoms of herpes, or just don’t know what herpes looks like and dismiss the sores as something else.

But that doesn't mean they are not contagious! They can still pass on the virus to an unsuspecting partner or in the case of pregnancy and herpes, to their babies and not know it. Unfortunately, being unaware about herpes is what causes it to be easily passed around.

If you suspect you have genital herpes, do see your doctor immediately so he can run some blood tests. Be honest about your medical and sexual history so he can provide the important information and precaution you need to ensure a healthy delivery.

Final words on Pregnancy and Herpes

Safer sexual practices can help prevent the mother from getting genital herpes. Washing of hands with soap and water is also a simple way to avoid transferring the herpes virus. Now that you are undergoing pregnancy and herpes, it is best that you get regular checkups from a doctor. In the meantime, here are some other options you can take:

  1. Join a herpes support group. If you’re feeling down and lonely, talking to people in the same boat can help ease the burden of having herpes. You might even obtain advice from other women who have had experience with pregnancy and herpes.
  2. Read about herpes in my Herpes Survival Guide. It contains up-to-date information and tips on how to live happily and healthy with herpes.
  3. Consider an online pharmacy. Let’s face it, antiviral medications don’t come cheap and if you’re looking to save money, purchasing from a trusted online pharmacy will save you lots of dollars in the long run.

A lot of pregnant women with herpes have given birth to healthy, bouncing babies. Getting worried is understandable, but do know that you can do something about pregnancy and herpes.

With the proper management and precaution, you need not be alarmed about passing on the infection to your unborn child.

Only, it is imperative that you make your status known to your physician so that he or she may monitor your condition and ensure that your baby will be delivered safely.

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