Can You Transfer the Herpes Virus to Your Baby While Pregnant?


Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is passed on from person to person during close sexual contact. Herpes is transmitted by genital to genital contact as well as by the oral/genital route. Herpes flare-ups vary from person to person, and while one common belief is that it cannot be spread when the infection is not active, there is still the chance of transmitting the virus even when one is not exhibiting symptoms.  Due to this fact, many pregnant mothers express concern about transferring the virus to their unborn children.  The good news is that neo-natal herpes is considered rare, but it is important for expectant mothers to educate themselves on specific risk factors and the possibility of transferring the virus.

What is the Real Risk?

Experts agree that the risk of mother to child transmission is particularly low in women who have been infected with the virus for long periods of time with minimal outbreaks. Pregnancy causes a variety of changes in the body, and this often leads to more herpes outbreaks in pregnant women, in turn causing additional concern. In certain cases, doctors may recommend a c-section birth if a mother has an active genital herpes outbreak prior to delivery, but even in these cases, the risk of passing on the virus is still extremely rare. Experts also agree on the fact that neonatal herpes are not as big of a concern when compared to many other complications that can occur in pregnancy.  Additionally, research studies have shown in approximately 4 million births per year, there are typically only 1,000 to 3,000 cases of neonatal herpes reported.

Transmission of the Virus

Transmission rates tend to be lower in women who contracted herpes prior to becoming pregnant than in those who contract herpes during pregnancy, so women can lower their risk of infection by using condoms during sex as well as abstaining from sex with a partner who has an active infection.

Effects of Neonatal Herpes

While the risk is low, it is important to note the effects of herpes on a newborn. Effects can include neurological issues, immune issues, retardation, and death, which is why it is extremely important for expectant mothers to work closely with their obstetricians to come up with a game plan for carrying and delivering their unborn child.

In Conclusion

Neonatal herpes is extremely rare, but there is always the possibility of unintentionally passing on the virus. Women can lower these chances by being completely honest with their doctors about their sexual history and herpes status, as this will allow for a birthing plan that will minimize the risk of transmission. They can also lower their risk of contracting the virus by practicing safe sex during pregnancy, using condoms and dental dams and avoiding sex with men who are actively infected. By taking the time to protect themselves as well as their unborn child, women can greatly lower the risk of transmission and give birth to a happy and healthy child.




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