Genital Herpes in Pregnancy

Genital Herpes in Pregnancy

Whether you are newly diagnosed, or have been diagnosed for some time, you might be concerned about genital herpes in pregnancy.

What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that causes painful blisters on the genitals and surrounding areas. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and is a chronic condition. The virus stays in your body and can become active again at any point. Over time, the recurrences will happen less often and be less severe.

The symptoms of genital herpes include:

  • itching around the genital area
  • painful sores on the genitals
  • feeling generally unwell
  • a tingling feeling may be the first warning sign of an outbreak

Genital herpes in pregnancy
Typically, genital herpes is not a problem during pregnancy, however there are are exceptions. You must inform your healthcare provider if you or your partner have ever been diagnosed with genital herpes. The seriousness of genital herpes in pregnancy depends on when you contracted the disease:

  • If you had genital herpes before you became pregnant, your body will have created antibodies to protect yourself from the virus. These antibodies will be shared with your baby via the placenta, and protect him from the condition.
  • If you contract the infection during the first trimester, there is a slight risk of miscarriage of birth defects.
  • If you contract genital herpes towards the end of the pregnancy, particularly during the last six weeks, there is a risk of transmission during delivery. Your immune system will not yet have built antibodies to protect against the virus, and so the baby would be unprotected. You may be offered a course of antiviral medication to prevent the herpes from flaring up for the birth.

Can I have a normal birth?
The majority of women with genital herpes are able to have a vaginal delivery. The exception to this rule is if you have genital sores at the time of the birth. Your healthcare provider will examine you as labour starts. If sores are present, you may be offered a ceasarean section. The risk of your baby contracting the disease during a vaginal birth when sores are present, is around 40%. Neonatal herpes is rare, but can be a very serious condition. Neonatal herpes causes infection of the eyes, skin and, in some cases, brain.

Speak to your healthcare provider if you are worried about genital herpes.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.