How Can I Prevent My Baby From Getting Neonatal Herpes
Parents or visitors can pass herpes onto a baby unwittingly in the first few weeks of their life. There are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk.
- If you are breastfeeding and develop a lesion on your breast or nipples, you should stop feeding from that breast straight away. See your GP as soon as possible, and they can test the lesion for neonatal herpes simplex virus .
- If you have a cold sore, ensure it is covered and wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. Treat the cold sore with a topical aciclovir cream until it is healed, and don’t kiss your baby while you still have the cold sore.
- Request that visitors wash their hands before holding your baby. Ask them politely not to kiss your newborn baby, especially if they have a cold sore.
- For more information see the Kit Tarka Foundation website.
Can Herpes Be Transmitted To An Infant During Pregnancy Or Delivery
When babies contract herpes, its known as neonatal herpes. Also called birth-acquired herpes, neonatal herpes can happen if your baby is exposed to genital herpes during vaginal delivery.
Neonatal herpes is considered rare, but when it does happen, there can be serious complications, such as permanent injury to the babys nervous system, developmental disabilities, and death.
The risk to your baby is greatest if you acquire HSV for the first time during the third trimester of pregnancy. Thats because the levels of the HSV in your system will be highest during that time, and youll have fewer protective antibodies to pass on to the baby prior to delivery.
If you contract a genital herpes infection during the third trimester, the risk of passing the virus to your baby during delivery is
How Can I Make Sure I Dont Get Genital Herpes
If you test negative for genital herpes, the following steps can help protect you from getting a herpes infection during pregnancy:
- If your partner has genital herpes, abstain from sex during any active herpes outbreak. Between outbreaks, use a condom from start to finish every time you have sexual contact, even if your partner has no symptoms. Consider abstaining from sex during the last trimester.
- If you dont know whether your partner has genital HSV, you may wish to ask your partner to be tested. If your partner has genital or oral HSV, there is a very real chance that you may acquire it unless you take steps to prevent transmission.
- Do not let your partner perform oral sex on you if your partner has an active cold sore . This can give you genital herpes.
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Genital Herpes And Early Pregnancy First And Second Trimester
Having a primary infection of genital herpes at this time will not affect the baby or cause a miscarriage. We now know there is no evidence for herpes causing a miscarriage when a mother catches genital herpes in the first three months although we used to think that there was an increased risk. Catching herpes will not cause miscarriage.
Having outbreaks during pregnancy is normal. These will not harm the baby. Some women have more outbreaks during pregnancy. You may choose to take aciclovir 400 mg three times daily from 36th week of pregnancy to ensure you dont have an outbreak at term.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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Genital Herpes In Pregnancy
Herpes infections are only rarely passed on to babies during childbirth. If a woman already had herpes viruses inside her body at the start of pregnancy, there’s no reason why she shouldnt give birth naturally unless there are signs of an outbreak shortly before she goes into labor.
Herpes infections can be life-threatening for newborn babies. Because of this, many women who have genital herpes are afraid of passing herpes viruses on to their child while giving birth. But this only rarely happens.
How best to deal with genital herpes in pregnancy, and whether a natural birth is possible, will depend on
- whether there are any signs of a genital herpes outbreak shortly before the birth and
- when the woman became infected with the virus.
The risk of infection is much smaller if the woman already had genital herpes before, or at the beginning of, pregnancy. This is because her immune system will have had a chance to produce antibodies to the virus. The mother passes these antibodies on to her unborn child through her placenta, giving him or her a certain amount of protection.
Herpes Simplex Virus Infections
The herpes simplex virus causes a variety of infections, characterized by dormant periods with no symptoms and sporadic outbreaks of red, itchy, painful blisters. Generally, there are two types of herpes: genital herpes and oral herpes . However, herpes lesions from both types can be found anywhere on the body, including on the skin, mouth, eyes, and genitals.
Type 1 infections are most often found on the mouth, while type 2 infections tend to occur in the genital area.
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What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
What Treatment Will I Be Offered
You should be referred to a specialist genitourinary medicine clinic. You will be offered testing, treatment and support. You may be admitted to hospital if this first episode is very painful or you cannot pass urine.
Genital herpes can be safely treated during pregnancy. You will be offered a course of antiviral tablets. This medication is safe to take in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
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Treatment Of Herpes In Pregnancy
The recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is to treat all primary outbreaks of genital herpes with antiviral medications, including primary outbreaks in pregnant women.
Acyclovir has the most data on the safety of use in pregnancy. A registry of over 1000 pregnant women who were exposed to acyclovir during early pregnancy suggests that acyclovir is most likely safe, as there were no increases in birth defects.ï»¿ï»¿
Most women who have a current outbreak of genital herpes, primary or recurrent, are usually advised to have a cesarean section to reduce the exposure of the infant to the herpes simplex virus. However, women with known herpes exposure usually take an antiviral medication in the third trimester to prevent outbreaksâand are able to safely deliver vaginally.
How Common Is Herpes Simplex
Approximately 80% of New Zealand adults have oral herpes and 30% have genital herpes. These figures are based on New Zealand studies and studies from countries with similar population groups to New Zealand. You can get genital herpes if you have sexual contact with a partner who is infected with herpes, or if a partner who has an active cold sore performs oral sex on you. Most people with HSV dont know they are infected with herpes because they have no herpes symptoms, or symptoms too mild to notice.
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How Is Genital Herpes Treated During Pregnancy
You should take acyclovir or valaciclovir tablets, as above.
If it’s your first outbreak of genital herpes, your baby may be more at risk because you haven’t had time to develop immune protection against the virus, which also helps protect the baby.
Some women experiencing an outbreak of genital herpes might be advised to have a caesarean. This would prevent the herpes virus passing from mother to baby during a vaginal birth. But most women in Australia with genital herpes do give birth safely to healthy babies vaginally.
It’s often recommended that women who have ever had genital herpes take antiviral tablets prior to the birth, even if the herpes isn’t active at the time.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about the best course of action for your situation.
How Is Herpes Diagnosed In Pregnancy
If you or your partner experience any of the above symptoms, check in with your doctor. A health care provider may be able to identify your sores via an exam, but a lab test is necessary to diagnose a case of genital herpes.
A sample is taken from the fluid inside a sore and then tested to see if it contains the virus and, if it does, what type of HSV is present. A blood test can check for antibodies and therefore diagnose HSV and its type but it cant determine how the infection was contracted or how long youve had the virus.
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What Did The Research Team Do
The research team reviewed health records of pregnant women to see if treatment, treatment timing, or length of treatment reduced the risk of preterm birth and low birthweight.
Women who had genital herpes during pregnancy, doctors, and patient health organizations helped plan and conduct the study.
What Will A First Episode In Pregnancy Mean For Me And My Baby
If your first episode happens in the first 3 months of pregnancy, your baby is not more likely to have developmental problems and your risk of miscarriage is not increased. Later in pregnancy, a first episode should not affect your baby unless you are in labour .
If you go into labour less than 6 weeks after a first episode of genital herpes, your immune system wont have had time to produce antibodies to protect your baby. There is thus a high chance of passing the virus to your baby if you have a vaginal birth. If your first episode is earlier in pregnancy, your immune system will provide protection to your baby.
When a baby catches the herpes virus at birth, it is known as neonatal herpes. It can be serious but is very rare in the UK . Your baby will be looked after in a neonatal unit by a specialist team of doctors.
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Do They Test For Herpes When Youre Pregnant
In general, herpes testing is not recommended during pregnancy. However, there is an exception for people with symptoms.
If you have symptoms of herpes during pregnancy, your doctor will likely recommend testing. Thats particularly true if you have never had symptoms in the past.
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Can A Baby Get Herpes In The Womb
Herpes simplex virus is the causative agent of birth-acquired herpes, which is an illness that a baby can develop after delivery or, less frequently, while they are still in the womb.Additionally, the infection might manifest up not long after delivery.Herpes can be transmitted from a woman to her child during pregnancy if the mother already has the virus.
- This is known as birth-acquired herpes.
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The Risks Change If You Contract Herpes During Pregnancy
Contracting genital herpes during pregnancy is a different story it can lead to miscarriage or early labor, especially if it occurs in the third trimester. Neonatal herpes can be transmitted to the baby when herpes is present in the birth canal during delivery. If it is, it can lead to damage to the nervous system and even death. This is why it’s super important to visit your doctor if you suspect you might have herpes, or if you think you’ve been exposed your doctor can prescribe antivirals to reduce the possibility of an outbreak.
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.
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Infection In The Last Trimester Of Pregnancy
If women become infected with genital herpes in the last three months of pregnancy, the virus is passed on to their baby in about 30 to 50 out of 100 births. Because of this risk, women who get genital herpes in the last trimester of pregnancy usually have a Cesarean section in order to protect the child. Its also a good idea to talk with a doctor who is specialized in the treatment of infectious diseases.
In order to prevent infection in the last three months of pregnancy, its best to avoid sex with people who have genital herpes. This is also true when it comes to oral sex with people who have cold sores.
Which Babies Are Most At Risk
Babies are most at risk from neonatal herpes if the mother contracts genital HSV for the first time late in pregnancy. This is because a newly infected mother does not have antibodies against the herpes virus, so there is no natural protection for the baby during birth. In addition, a new herpes infection is frequently active, so there is a real chance that the herpes virus will be present in the birth canal during delivery.
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I Have Genital Herpes How Can I Prevent My Baby From Getting The Virus
Firstly, make sure you tell your health care provider that you have genital herpes. Antiviral medication may be offered in late pregnancy to prevent or reduce recurrence. As labour approaches, inspect your genital area for any signs of a breakout and your health care provider will do the same. If you have an active outbreak, delivering by C-section instead of vaginally significantly reduces the high risk of transmitting the virus to your baby. Depending on the situation, you and/or your baby may be treated with anti-viral medications. If you have a vaginal delivery, some measures can prevent transmission, such as leaving membranes intact and avoiding instrument use and fetal scalp monitoring. After delivery, check the baby often for signs of infection, such as blisters, fever, or lack of appetite.
If your partner has HSV and you dont, use condoms every time you have sexual contact, even if your partner has no symptoms. Dont have sexual contact if your partner has an active outbreak and consider abstaining in the third trimester even if your partner doesnt have an active outbreak. It is recommended that you be tested early in pregnancy for HSV, and then again at 32-34 weeks gestation.
The greatest risk of infection to your baby happens if you acquire a new genital herpes infection late in pregnancy. In this case, delivering by C-section is the safest option.
Risks Of Herpes During Pregnancy
The major risk associated with herpes and pregnancy is neonatal herpes infections. These infections of the newborn are rare, but can be quite serious or even fatal. The biggest risk for neonatal herpes occurs for people who are newly infected during pregnancyparticularly near the time of delivery.
Cesarean section is recommended instead of vaginal delivery for people who have genital symptoms at the time of delivery. It is also recommended for people who are having prodromal symptoms that signal a likely outbreak. C-section has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of herpes transmission to the infant.
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What Happens If A Woman With Herpes Gets Pregnant
Herpes and Being Expectant Rest confident that the possibility of something going wrong is quite remote. Herpes simplex virus can be passed on to a newborn during delivery from a mother who has genital herpes if the virus is present in the birth canal at the time of delivery. This can result in neonatal herpes, a disease that is dangerous and can occasionally be deadly.
How Is Herpes Treated In Pregnancy
Its not clear whether all antiviral medications for genital herpes are safe during pregnancy, so follow your doctors lead when it comes to treatment.
Herpes symptoms may be managed with antivirals and during an outbreak, and they may reduce the length and severity of it. Daily medication, which is called suppressive therapy, can also reduce the number of outbreaks you experience.
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What Were The Results
Preterm birth. Among pregnant women with genital herpes,
- Women who received treatment had a lower risk of preterm birth than women who didnt receive treatment.
- Women who received treatment before the third trimester had a lower risk of preterm birth than women who received treatment in the third trimester.
- Women whose treatment lasted 20 days or more had a lower risk of preterm birth than women who didnt receive treatment. But women who received treatment for less than 20 days didnt have a lower risk of preterm birth than women who didnt receive treatment.
The risk of preterm birth didnt differ between women with genital herpes who received treatment and women who didnt have genital herpes.
Low birthweight. Compared with women who didnt receive treatment, among those who did, treatment, treatment timing, and length of treatment did not reduce the risk of low birthweight.