If you are pregnant, there are some essential steps that you should do to make sure that your baby is going to fully healthy. One of these steps is to know everything about genital herpes during pregnancy and how to treat it the right way. It is the second most common sexually transmitted disease and it can really harm your baby.
Let’s discuss herpes simplex especially genital herpes in detail.
• How Can The Infection Spread to The Infant?
There are three ways to spread the infection to the infant.
1. If the mother has genital herpes. The virus will exist in the birth canal and transmit to the infant during delivery.
2. Oral herpes can be transmitted to the infant if a carrier of the virus kissed the infant.
3. In rare circumstances, the virus can be transmitted by touch. The carrier touches the lesion then touches the baby.
• The Harmful Effects of Herpes on babies:
Herpes simplex virus causes “neonatal herpes”. It is one of the rarest, life-threatening conditions affecting babies.
The effects of herpes simplex on babies include:
1. Eye or Throat Infections.
2. Central Nervous System Damages.
3. Mental Retardation.
If the condition is discovered early, it may be prevented or the damages can be limited.
• The Number of Infants Who Get Neonatal Herpes:
The percentage of neonatal herpes in the United States is less than 0.1% among the new-borns annually. In Australia, it is estimated by 4 births per 100,000 live births.
The United States and Australia are among the countries with the most affected people. Due to proper health awareness, most of the women give birth to healthy babies without any kinds of dangers.
So the question now is who are the babies that are considered at risk?
If the pregnant woman got herpes simplex virus for the first time during her last three months of pregnancy, the baby will be at risk of getting neonatal herpes. The body of the mother didn’t yet produce any antibodies against the virus so the baby will be infected too because the natural barrier against the virus does not exist. Also, the virus will somehow reach the vaginal canal especially if it is herpes simplex type 2.
These babies are at most risk.
So now what happens to women who have genital herpes before becoming pregnant?
Women who have history genital herpes have a lower risk of transmitting the virus to their babies than other women. Their immune systems have developed antibodies to the virus and gave the baby some through the placenta to be able to fight against the infection.
As we know, genital herpes outbreaks can occur at any time. Outbreaks make the virus active so if the virus exists in the birth canal, it will be in its active form. However, the baby will still be able to fight against the virus due to the natural barrier he/she has (The antibodies from his/her mother).
Also, if the mother has a history of genital herpes, the doctor will give her the proper treatments for safe pregnancy and delivery.
• How to Protect Your Baby If You Have Genital Herpes and Pregnant?
Pregnant women who have genital herpes have the same concern which is the fear of transmitting the virus to their baby. If you have genital herpes, don’t worry. The risk of transmitting the virus to your baby is already low. Your body has produced antibodies against the virus and it transfers some of them to your baby through the placenta to create a barrier against the infection.
Here are some steps you should do to prevent the virus completely from being transferred to your baby.
1. Discuss your genital herpes with your doctor. He/she should know everything about your case.
2. Before delivery, check if there are any kind of symptoms especially in and around the genital area. Any kind of sores, tingling, painful urinating, itching, or any other symptom should be a warning sign. Your doctor should check if any kind of symptoms of an outbreak appears.
3. You should discuss with your doctor the possible scenarios. You should discuss the choices with the doctor about the possibility of having an outbreak during the time of delivery. You should agree about how the delivery will be performed either vaginal delivery without the use of any instruments or cesarean delivery.
The risk of transmitting the virus to the baby through vaginal delivery is less than 3% but the risk still exists. This risk should be compared to the risks of cesarean delivery and the choice should be decided by the mother after discussing it with her doctor. Any risk factor should be considered before the time of delivery.
4. The use of water bags should be limited and should not be used unless it is a necessity. Water bags will form a barrier protecting the baby from the transmission of the virus from the birth canal.
5. Also, fetal scalp monitors should not be used unless it is a necessity. These scalp electrodes monitor the heart rate of the infant but they cause tiny punctures in the scalp of the baby. This may give a chance to the virus to enter through these punctures. It is preferred to use external monitoring instead.
6. After delivery, the baby should be monitored for more than a month to see if any kind of neonatal herpes will appear.
• How Can You Confirm whether you Have Genital Herpes or Not?
If you suspect that you have symptoms of genital herpes, it is better to have a viral culture immediately. Your doctor will take a sample and get it tested. The results will be available within a week.
If you don’t have any kind of symptoms, your doctor will take a blood sample to make sure whether you carry the virus or not.
• The Conclusion:
Having a healthy baby is what all mothers seek. I realize that having genital herpes is a big issue but the odds are in our favor. The previous points should be discussed with your doctor and he/she should tell you more about how to have a healthy baby.