Pregnancy and Herpes

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Pregnancy and Herpes
There are two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) - one which causes cold sores and one which causes genital sores.

Once you've had the virus once it remains in your body and may reappear at any time. Both types of the herpes virus can be easily passed on through contact with the sores when they are active, such as through sex and oral sex.

Most women who suffer from genital herpes have a normal pregnancy with no complications to the baby but you should see your GP or midwife immediately if you do get genital herpes when pregnant. You may be referred to a genitourinary specialist for tests and treatment to avoid your baby catching the virus and becoming affected.

First Attack during Early Pregnancy

If you have your first ever attack of herpes during the early stages of pregnancy, you may be given antiviral drugs (aciclovir) to clear up the infection before the baby is born. These drugs are harmless to the baby.

First Attack in Later Pregnancy

If you have any active genital herpes sores in the last six weeks of pregnancy there is a 40-50% risk that the virus will be passed to your baby.

You may need to take antiviral drugs for the last four weeks of your pregnancy to try to clear up the sores before the baby is born.

It may be recommended that you have a Caesarean section to prevent the baby coming into contact with the sores.

There is also a very small chance your baby will develop a condition called neonatal herpes. Only 1-2 in 100,000 babies are affected by this but it can cause complications such as damage to the skin, eyes and brain.

Recurrent Attack during Pregnancy

If you are affected by herpes while you are pregnant but you have suffered before, the risk that your baby will be infected is much lower because you and your baby have already had a chance to develop immunity to the virus. Caesarean section will not normally be considered unless you have symptoms of genital herpes.

Speak to your doctor or midwife about breastfeeding if you have suffered from herpes.

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