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Herpes and Pregnancy – What Should You Consider?

Published 2024-05-04 13:22 by Nordictest
Herpes and Pregnancy – What Should You Consider?

Becoming pregnant while carrying the herpes virus is not necessarily a problem. Considering that it's estimated that around 90 percent of the world's population carries the virus, we know from experience that this doesn't entail significant changes regarding pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby. What matters is when you acquire the infection, whether it's before or during pregnancy.

If you have taken a pregnancy test, received a positive result, and shortly after develop a herpes infection, it could be significant. Testing promptly when symptoms appear is advisable whether you are pregnant or not. Additionally, it's important to discuss this with your midwife as soon as you know you have a herpes infection.

Since you can take steps to mitigate the spread of the virus in your body if you treat it early, it's really beneficial to be aware of the infection as soon as possible. There's no need to panic, but let's start by examining how serious herpes during pregnancy can actually be.

Primary Infection Poses the Greatest Risk to Your Fetus

Recent studies have shown that it's the primary infection, the first time you contract a herpes infection, that poses the greatest risk to the fetus. CMV (cytomegalovirus) is a virus that belongs to the herpes group. It spreads through saliva or blood.

Infection can occur many weeks after exposure. During the infection, it can cause problems for the fetus's development. The earlier this occurs during pregnancy, the more severe the consequences can be.

It's particularly infections of CMV during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy that can cause developmental disorders. It can lead to damage to the nervous system as well as growth retardation. Studies have shown that a recurrent infection does not have the same effect. So, if you've had herpes before and it reoccurs during your pregnancy, you don't need to worry about transmitting the virus to the fetus.

Support Your Immune System Before and During Pregnancy

We've discussed the importance of the immune system and herpes before. When you're planning to conceive, this might be something to consider. If you experience symptoms that make you suspect herpes, you should take a herpes test to confirm. If the test shows negative results, you should further investigate the cause of the symptoms. There are other infections with similar symptoms that should also be taken seriously.

With the knowledge that you have the herpes virus in your body, you can take measures to support your immune system. This can be very important for both you and your unborn child. If you avoid new infections with troublesome symptoms during pregnancy, you'll have more energy. Just avoiding giving birth while having an ongoing herpes infection in the genital area is really important.

Risks of Herpes Transmission During Delivery

What worries many women with herpes during pregnancy is the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby during delivery. We've clarified that recurrent herpes during pregnancy rarely transmits to the fetus. But there are new risks when it's time to give birth.

If you were to get genital herpes late in your pregnancy, the risk of transmitting herpes during delivery increases. This is because you may not have enough time to build antibodies and transfer them to the baby before birth.

Here, of course, we can see a bright spot. If you get an infection during pregnancy and it's not the first time, this may offer some protection to the baby. But it's important to be aware of what's happening with your infection and discuss this with a midwife who can provide you with good advice to reduce the risk of transmission.

Neonatal Herpes is Rare

There is neonatal herpes, meaning the fetus becomes infected during pregnancy, but it's good to know that this is very rare. As we've clarified, it's most dangerous if you, as an expectant mother, get a herpes infection for the first time before reaching week 16 of pregnancy.

What Can You Do?

As a pregnant woman with herpes, you should receive extra careful prenatal care. This involves regular check-ups and also keeping an eye on symptoms that may indicate a herpes outbreak.

If you know you've had herpes before, it may be wise to discuss screening with your healthcare provider. Not everyone is offered this type of testing, but you can discuss it with your midwife if you're feeling anxious.

Antiviral Medication Can Be Used

Antiviral medications can be used during pregnancy. These medications can make outbreaks milder and also reduce the risk of transmission to the baby. If you frequently experience herpes outbreaks or if you develop genital herpes late in pregnancy, a healthcare provider may recommend taking antiviral medication for the well-being of you and your baby.

Normally, this is recommended from the 36th week of pregnancy until delivery. However, there may be reasons to start treatment earlier if you have very severe symptoms that make it difficult for you to cope with everyday life during pregnancy.

Is Cesarean Section Necessary?

Today, many opt for cesarean section, and it's an option if you feel it's best for you. But if you're considering a cesarean section because of herpes, it's not necessarily required.

When you don't have active genital herpes, there's no reason why your child would be at greater risk of acquiring the infection during birth. You should have no issues with a normal vaginal delivery due to latent herpes virus in your body.

An Emotional Challenge

We shouldn't forget that herpes during pregnancy can be emotionally challenging. Even if you realize that you're not actually putting your baby at risk with the virus in your body, you may still worry.

Alongside proper treatment of the virus, it's wise to discuss this concern with a healthcare provider or perhaps in a support group. By talking about it and getting support from others, you can reduce stress. This is something that can decrease the risk of new infections since stress is one of the known triggers for herpes outbreaks.

Minimize Risks for Both Mother and Child

We should remember that herpes during pregnancy can be a problem for both mother and child. However, with appropriate care and preventive strategies, this shouldn't pose a significant issue. Discuss the matter with your midwife and ensure you have a tailored plan for your pregnancy and delivery.