Genital Herpes and Your Baby

Having a herpes infection during pregnancy can cause any pregnant woman anxiety. Will your baby be born with the infection? What kind of complications occurs to an infant with herpes? And is there anything you can do to prevent your baby from being infected?

What is Herpes?
Herpes is a viral infection that is spread through direct contact with herpes sores. There are two types of herpes virus: Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 has traditionally been associated with causing oral herpes. This type of herpes is marked by cold sores around the mouth area. HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes and is spread through vaginal and anal sex. However, HSV-1 can also be transmitted through oral sex, causing a genital herpes infection. There is no cure for herpes.

Genital Herpes Symptoms
The most common herpes symptoms are herpes bumps or lesions. These blister-like sores can appear around the anus, on the penis, on the thighs or buttocks, or in and around the vaginal area. These sores may be accompanied by pain, muscle aches, headaches and fever. Because many women develop vaginal herpes, that is, herpes sores in the vagina, female herpes symptoms can also include vaginal discharge. Unfortunately, this can lead to a misdiagnosis of a yeast infection or pelvic inflammatory disease instead of recognizing the symptoms of herpes for what they really are. Sometimes, boils are confused with a herpes infection. If you have boils, they will be much larger than herpes blisters. Seek appropriate boil treatment.

Herpes and Pregnancy
While being infected with genital herpes, regardless of whether it is caused by herpes type 1 or herpes type 2, does increase your risk of miscarriage and premature labor as well as complications with your baby, it is important to note that very few women with herpes do experience problems. Between 20% and 25% of all pregnant women are infected with genital herpes. Of these, only 0.01% or fewer will experience complications during their pregnancy as a result of their herpes infection.

If you become infected with the herpes virus during the first or second trimester of your pregnancy, it is unlikely that your baby will be affected. This is due to the fact that your body produces antibodies to the HSV-2 virus, which are then passed on to your baby thereby offering her some protection. Women who were already infected with herpes prior to pregnancy will produce these antibodies during pregnancy as well. While your body will also pass on antibodies to your child if you are infected with the HSV-1 virus, these antibodies are not thought to offer as much protection from the herpes virus.

Table of Contents
1. Herpes and Your Baby
2. Can I pass it on to baby?
3. What happens if baby gets it?
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