Talk To Your Doctor If Youre Pregnant And Have Herpes
If you’re pregnant, have genital herpes, and are worried about passing it on to your baby, keep in mind that the risk is small According to the American Sexual Health Association, “While neonatal herpes is a serious condition, it is also very rare. Less than 0.1% of babies born in the United States each year get neonatal herpes. By contrast, some 25-30% of pregnant women have genital herpes. This means that most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies.”
Don’t let herpes stigma stop you from telling your doctor that you have it, urges Alexandra. Once your doctor knows you have herpes, she can monitor you for outbreaks, since it’s critical to be aware of them before you give birth. If you do have an outbreak , it’s recommended that you have a C-section, so that the baby won’t come into contact with the sores.
Sex with herpes during pregnancy
If your partner has genital or oral herpes and you don’t, avoid sex during outbreaks, and make sure to use barrier methods, like condoms and dental dams, every time you have any kind of sex during pregnancy. Your partner should also talk to their doctor about getting on suppressant therapy during your pregnancy.
Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
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How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex
Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.
To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:
- Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
- Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
- Speaking with a therapist.
What Do I Need To Know About Dating With Herpes
Some people feel like their love lives are over when they find out they have herpes, but its just not true. People with herpes have romantic and sexual relationships with each other, or with partners who dont have herpes.
Talking about STDs isnt the most fun conversation youll ever have. But its super important to always tell partners if you have herpes, so you can help prevent it from spreading.
Theres no one way to talk about having an STD, but here are some tips that may help:
Keep calm and carry on. Millions of people have herpes, and plenty of them are in relationships. For most couples, herpes isnt a huge deal. Try to go into the conversation with a calm, positive attitude. Having herpes is simply a health issue it doesnt say anything about you as a person.
Make it a two-way conversation. Remember that STDs are super common, so who knows? Your partner might have herpes too. So start by asking if theyve ever been tested or had an STD before.
Know your facts. Theres a lot of misinformation about herpes out there, so read up on the facts and be prepared to set the record straight. Let your partner know there are ways to treat herpes and avoid passing it on during sex.
Tell your past partners too, so they can get tested.
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How Can I Reduce The Risk To My Unborn Baby
Medication for you and your baby should help prevent or reduce the chance of your baby being seriously ill:
- if your first episode is before 28 weeks of pregnancy, you may be offered antiviral treatment at that time and again from 36 weeks of pregnancy until your baby is born
- if your first episode is at or after 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will be advised to continue your treatment until your baby is born.
If your first episode is late in pregnancy , you should be offered a planned caesarean section to reduce the chance of your baby getting neonatal herpes.
If your first episode is earlier in pregnancy, the risk to your baby is low and you should be able to have a vaginal birth. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns.
Some people have no signs or symptoms at all. Some people just get a few blisters in the genital area, which are not particularly painful. Flare-ups are usually mild. An early-warning tingling sensation often happens before the flare-up occurs.
However, for some people, the symptoms can be very painful. This is particularly so if it is your first episode when you may also feel unwell and notice very painful sores or watery blisters.
Symptoms can occur within a short time of coming into contact with the virus or it may take many weeks, months or years before any signs or symptoms appear.
Parenting Children And Genital Herpes
Parents commonly tell us about worries they have about transmission and passing on genital herpes to their children in the course of daily life . Perhaps because there is so little information that addresses parents concerns about herpes transmission, parents end up devising all sorts of safety strategies that are completely unnecessary.
The key message is loving parents do not pass on genital herpes to their children through the normal intimacies of family life. Its important that fear of transmission doesnt get in the way of loving touch and shared experiences.
We hope this information will reassure parents and help you to enjoy your children.
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Rare Complications To Be Mindful Of
If a woman has primary herpes at any point in the pregnancy, there is the possibility of the virus crossing the placenta and infecting the baby in the uterus. This transmission of the virus to the fetus causes neonatal herpes, a potentially fatal condition. Mothers who acquire genital herpes in the last few weeks of pregnancy are at the highest risk of transmitting the virus.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Herpes simplex virus doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with HSV-2 should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy as prescribed, to prevent outbreaks during delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
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Signs Your Child Has Been Infected With Herpes
The herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 causes oral, genital and congenital herpes infections in children and adults 3. A child can contract herpes from his parents, from other children, or from his infected mother during pregnancy or vaginal birth. There is no cure for herpes, but the frequency and duration of its symptoms can be managed. It is important to recognize the signs that your child has been infected with herpes so that you can get him appropriate treatment and help to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy: Understanding The Risks
Genital herpes is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 people between the ages of 14 and 49 have it. Approximately 22% of pregnant women in the U.S. have genital herpes. Two percent contract it during pregnancy thats 1 in 50 pregnant women.
Two viral strains can cause genital herpes. HSV-2 is the most common and typically spreads through sexual contact. HSV-1, which is best known for causing cold sores, can also produce genital lesions . More than half of adults in America get HSV-1 at some point in their lives.
Herpes is generally manageable in adults. However, it can cause serious health problems in newborns. During delivery, your baby may be exposed to the virus, even if you are not having an outbreak.
Herpes infection occurs in less than 1% of births, but it can cause severe illness in newborns, such as:
- Serious infections, such as viral meningitis
- Recurrent sores on the skin, eyes, genitals, or mouth
- organ damage, including to the liver, lungs, and heart
Tell your doctor if you or your partner have herpes or if you may have been exposed. By knowing, we can take extra precautions to reduce your babys risk of infection during delivery and in their first few weeks at home. If youre not certain but think you may have had herpes in the past, we can do a blood test to determine whether you have had the infection.
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.11 In addition, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.11
There is currently no commercially available vaccine that is protective against genital herpes infection. Candidate vaccines are in clinical trials.
How Serious Is Herpes For A Baby
Sometimes neonatal herpes will only affect the babys eyes, mouth or skin.
In these cases, most babies will make a complete recovery with antiviral treatment.
But the condition is much more serious if its spread to the babys organs.
Nearly a third of infants with this type of neonatal herpes will die, even after they have been treated.
If widespread herpes is not treated immediately, theres a high chance the baby will die.
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Being A Parent With Herpes
Genital herpes, in either parent, does not generally affect children and there is little risk of transmission so long as normal hygiene and herpes prevention methods are practiced.
Initial exposure to HSV in babies and young children, after being kissed by someone with a cold sore, can cause gingivostomatitis, an infection of the mouth and gums which goes largely unrecognized and untreated.
How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
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What Treatment Can I Get If I Have A Genital Herpes Outbreak In Pregnancy
If you have genital herpes, an antiviral drug called aciclovir is recommended. Aciclovir isnt licensed for use during pregnancy but is considered safe and hasnt been associated with an increased incidence of birth defects . Antiviral treatment is offered:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until birth if a pregnant woman gets a primary infection after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Risk Of Transmission To The Baby
The overall risk is low that a mother with herpes will transmit the virus to their child via childbirth, as long as they are not experiencing an active outbreak at the time of delivery. In fact, research shows that only 1% of babies born to carries of herpes will get infected during childbirth. Additionally, genital herpes causes more risk than oral herpes.
The specific risk of transmitting the herpes simplex virus to a baby depends on several factors:
- Exposure of the infant to herpes lesions during delivery
- Whether the mother has antibodies to the herpes simplex virus
- Whether the infant has time to acquire these antibodies before delivery
To illustrate how an infants risk changes based on the above factors, consider the following example:
A person who experiences their first outbreak of genital herpes during the third trimester of pregnancy and who has not yet developed antibodies to the virus by the onset of labor has a 33% chance of transmitting the virus to their infant during vaginal birth.
On the other hand, a woman who experiences a recurrent outbreak of genital herpes has just a 3% chance of transmitting the virus to their infant. The risk is reduced in this scenario primarily because the mother already has antibodies to the herpes virus and has passed them to their unborn child.
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Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your developing fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? above for information about this.
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How Genital Herpes Affects Reproduction
The following important facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give you an additional perspective on genital herpes as you consider your options to get pregnant:
- Genital herpes is common in the United States, affecting one in 16 people ages 14 to 49.
- Herpes simplex type 2 causes most cases of genital herpes, while type 1 mostly infects the mouth and is responsible for “fever blisters.”
- More women are infected than men, and men pass the disease to women more frequently than vice versa.
- Most of those infected with herpes simplex have had minor or no active symptoms.
- People infected with genital herpes only shed the virus 10% of the time when there are no lesions.
In the absence of lesions, a doctor can swab your genital area and send it to test for herpes simplex DNA to see if you are shedding the virus. However, because the virus only sheds 10% of the time, a negative test doesn’t mean you don’t ever shed virus.