Pregnancies can bring several complications with them, while also aggravating existing ones. These are not only harmful to the mum but can also affect the baby.
One such issue that expecting mums can face is contracting genital herpes. Research suggests that there is a nearly 30-50 per cent chance that the virus may be passed on to the baby if the mother contracts genital herpes in the last three months of pregnancy.
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, it’s only natural to be concerned about it spreading to your baby. While you will need to be careful, you do not need to stress too much over the same.
To ease your concerns, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about genital herpes and how it affects you during pregnancy.
What Is Genital Herpes?
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Genital herpes is an infection that is transmitted sexually. It can cause herpetic sores, which are painful blisters that can break open and ooze fluid.
There are two types of herpes simplex virus that mainly cause genital herpes:
- HSV-1: This type of genital herpes causes cold sores
- HSV-2: This variant causes genital herpes
Both these viruses are present in bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal secretions and saliva.
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
As for symptoms of genital herpes, watch out for these:
- There can be blisters around your vagina, buttock or anus if you are suffering from genital herpes.
- There can also be blisters in the mouth or even on the face if it has come in contact with the area of the infection.
- The infected area starts to itch and will have a tingling sensation before the blisters appear.
- Genital herpes can also cause body aches, fever or even headaches,
Genital Herpes During Pregnancy And Risk Of Infection To The Baby
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If you had genital herpes before pregnancy or were infected during the first trimester, there’s less than one per cent chance that your baby will be infected as well.
Moreover, doctors will also carefully examine for any symptoms before you give birth. The baby may be delivered by a C-section if there is any sign of an outbreak at the time of delivery.
On the other hand, contracting genital herpes in the last trimester increases the risk of infecting your baby. This is because your immune system has not developed protective antibodies against the virus.
The new herpes infection is also frequently active, and thus there is a higher risk that the virus will be present in the birth canal during delivery.
However, it’s not the case with women who have had an older herpes infection. They have antibodies against the virus, which help protect the baby. So even if herpes is active in the birth canal during delivery, the antibodies will help to protect your baby.
What Is Neonatal Herpes?
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy and if the virus is present in the birth canal, there is a possibility that the herpes simplex virus (HSV) will spread to your infant.
It is called neonatal herpes. You need to take this seriously as it can sometimes turn fatal.
Unfortunately, neonatal herpes can cause lasting damage to the central nervous system, leading to mental retardation, or even death. However, while neonatal herpes is a serious condition, it’s also very rare.
Genital Herpes During Pregnancy: Some Precautions To Follow
Take extreme caution when having sex during pregnancy, irrespective of whether you have genital herpes or not. If your partner gets cold sores, they should not perform oral sex on you during this time.
Some doctors may ask you to test for herpes when you get pregnant, especially if your partner has herpes or has had it before.
2. Inform your doctor
Always talk to your doctor or midwife, if you know you have genital herpes. Your healthcare provider should always examine you early in your labour to detect if there are any signs of an outbreak.
If you feel discomfort such as itching, tingling or pain, immediately inform your doctor.
The doctor may recommend you a C-section delivery if you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery. It is the safest option to prevent the baby from coming in contact with the herpes virus in the birth canal.
However, if you don’t have an active outbreak, the doctor can then advise you to go for a vaginal birth.
4. Observe your baby after birth
After your baby is born, closely observe your child for about three weeks. Some of the symptoms of neonatal herpes may include a fever, skin rash, crankiness or a lack of appetite.
While they are mild illnesses, do not ignore them. Take your baby to a paediatrician immediately.
Treatment For Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
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If you are suffering from genital herpes during pregnancy, you should always consult your doctor before taking any antiviral drug. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved no drug against herpes during pregnancy.
However, some doctors recommend the use of acyclovir to treat women with genital herpes at the end of the pregnancy. There are some studies that suggest that acyclovir if taken daily during the last month of pregnancy can prevent recurrences.
It can also decrease the need for C-sections.
However, some health experts continue to remain concerned about the safety of fetal exposure to the medication.
Since every pregnancy is different, always consult your doctor before taking any medication during your pregnancy.
Remember, herpes virus can spread to the baby in the first few weeks of life. So please take care that your baby is not kissed by someone with oral herpes. If you have a cold sore, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water, every time before touching your baby. Stay safe and have a stress-free pregnancy.
Source: WebMD, Healthline
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