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Herpes and Pregnancy

  • Published: 2009-03-29 (Revised/Updated 2010-10-01) : Author: Josh k.
  • Synopsis: While chances of a woman with herpes passing the virus onto baby are slim there is a possibility that the child could become infected with herpes at time of birth.

Main Document

As any pregnant woman knows, protecting your baby is top priority. For women infected with the herpes virus, this becomes even more of a concern.

While the chances of a woman with herpes passing the virus onto her baby are slim, there is still a possibility that the child could become infected with herpes at the time of birth. Talking openly with your doctor and educating yourself on herpes and pregnancy and how it can affect your pregnancy and baby are your best tools to protect yourself and your child.

Following are some questions that you may have if you are experiencing herpes and pregnancy.

Can my baby get herpes from me

Yes. While neonatal herpes occurs very rarely, with herpes and pregnancy, there is a small chance (less than one percent) that your baby will contract the virus from you at the time of birth. In 90 percent of the cases, herpes is passed from mother to baby via an outbreak in the birth canal. In some instances, the virus can be spread even if there are no herpes sores because herpes can be passed asymptomatically, meaning that it has reactivated but there are no symptoms (sores) to indicate it.

I was just recently diagnosed with herpes. Is my baby at less risk

No. Actually, pregnant women who were just recently diagnosed with the virus before becoming pregnant or during pregnancy pose slightly more of a risk for passing the herpes on to their baby. This is because a woman who hasn't had the disease for a longer period of time has not had as much of a chance to build antibodies to the virus that can be passed on to her unborn child. However, the risk of transmitting herpes is only slightly increased in newly diagnosed women, and women that get the disease during the first and second trimesters should still be able to provide enough antibodies to their babies.

Can I still have my baby naturally

Yes. With herpes and pregnancy, unless you are having an outbreak with active lesions, most doctors and obstetricians will recommend a vaginal birth as the risks associated with a Cesarean section far outweigh the risk of your baby becoming infected with herpes. Because of the antibodies you have passed to your baby during the pregnancy, your child will be protected against the virus and there is only a minimal chance (less than one percent) of the disease being passed on.

What if I get an outbreak right before I deliver

The most important thing you can do if you notice an outbreak before delivery is to tell your doctor. Where herpes and pregnancy are concerned, it's always best to be honest and let your OB know as soon as possible that you have active lesions. This is the best thing you can do to protect your baby because your doctor can then determine which is the safest route to take for delivery.

How can I protect my baby from getting herpes

When trying to control herpes and pregnancy, the best way to protect your baby is to educate yourself on the virus, take precautionary and preventative measures to lessen your chance of having an outbreak, and discuss your condition frankly with your doctor.


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