Herpes During Pregnancy

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on January 18, 2012

An infection of the HSV virus causes herpes. Herpes during pregnancy is not very common but there are chances of the unborn child being infected if the infection occurs later on in the pregnancy. The transmission rate is highest when a woman gets the infection towards the end of her pregnancy. Do remember that you can also transfer the virus if you have a recurrent infection. Although herpes is treatable it is not curable. If you have had a herpes outbreak before, the virus remains in your body and can be occur again.

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It is best to let your doctor know at the first prenatal visit itself if you or your partner has ever had herpes. Genital herpes infection does not necessarily mean your child will have physical deformities at birth. Studies have shown that infected mothers have often given birth to healthy babies.


The transmission risk is very low for women who get herpes before pregnancy. Even women who have several attacks of herpes during their pregnancy do not pass the infection on to their child. This is because they develop immunity towards the virus. If however the infection is passed on during pregnancy the baby might develop some health problems such as a minor skin rash, rash on the eyes or mouth or even on the entire body in some cases. Keep in mind that genital herpes can only be transmitted during labor and delivery if you are contagious at that time. If you are infected for the first time, the risk of transmission is very high. A cesarean delivery is only recommended in those cases if you are having an outbreak or symptoms of one. If you had herpes before pregnancy or in the first trimester, you can have a vaginal delivery.

Treatment for herpes in pregnancy involves anti viral medication. These are effective in both controlling and preventing future outbreaks. Certain birth defects due to these medicines may occur but these are minor and treatable. Research has shown the pregnant women with recurrent genial herpes should be given oral antiviral medication from the 36th week onwards till the delivery. This has been known to reduce the risk of an outbreak at the time the woman is going into labor.

Pregnant women suffering from genital herpes should refrain from oral and vaginal sex. Do contact your doctor immediately if you suspect you have herpes or show symptoms of it. Viral cultures, serologic tests, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or direct fluorescent antibody tests can be conducted to confirm the disease. Your doctor will then be able to advise you on the preferred method of treatment for herpes during pregnancy.

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