Genital Herpes in Pregnancy

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Genital herpes becomes a bigger problem if you are pregnant as the infection can be passed onto your baby and cause a number of serious health issues. It all depends on when you contract genital herpes, whether it is your first outbreak and whether an outbreak occurs during birth.

Catching herpes in the 1st or 2nd trimester

If you become infected with herpes whilst you are pregnant, then there is quite a high risk of passing it onto your child. Your body will not have produced the sufficient antibodies to combat the infection; therefore you will not have passed these antibodies onto your baby in order for them to have some immunity. There is a greater risk of the baby catching genital herpes because of this reason. However, you can take the anti viral drug Acyclovir for a period of time in the aim of preventing an outbreak at the time of birth. There is also a greater risk of miscarriage if you have been infected whilst pregnant.

Catching herpes in your 3rd Trimester

The third trimester is between week 27 and the birth of your baby and if you catch genital herpes within this time period, the risk of passing it on to your child is at its highest. There is no time for your body to make antibodies to provide immunity for your child and you are more likely to have an outbreak at the time of birth. Therefore, although you will be given Acyclovir to reduce the chance of an outbreak, the likelihood is that you will be advised to undergo a C-section so that the baby does not pass through the infected area.

Catching herpes before pregnancy

If you already have genital herpes before you are pregnant and have had your primary infection, then the risk of passing it onto your baby is low. You have the sufficient antibodies in your system to provide some immunity to your baby. Usually you will be given Acyclovir a month before your due date to reduce the risk of a recurrent outbreak. Out of 100 births during a recurrent outbreak, three newborns contracted the infection.

Neonatal herpes

If genital herpes is passed onto your baby during birth, there can be a number of health issues and it is potentially fatal. Your baby does not have a strong immune system yet, so any infection at birth raises potential health issues. It can cause a number of infections including brain infections causing encephalitis, meningitis, and skin infections. It can also affect the eyes, mouth and important organs such as the lungs. Therefore, catching herpes may cause developmental problems or death.

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