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Herpes And Pregnancy

Aug 19, 2008
Since genital herpes is a life-long, incurable condition, it is an issue that definitely needs to be discussed when a woman is considering giving birth. While genital herpes is not typically harmful to adults, when a woman is thinking about becoming pregnant or if she is already pregnant, she and her partner must discuss the possible implications a genital herpes diagnosis may have on an infant.

It is common for genital herpes-infected mothers to give birth without passing the virus on to their infant, even with normal vaginal delivery. In fact, according to the American Social Health Association, less than 0.1% of infants born in America each year contract genital herpes during delivery.

A woman who contracts herpes before pregnancy passes herpes antibodies that her body has produced on to her fetus, which protects it from contracting the virus.

Infants are more at risk of contracting the virus during later stages of pregnancy, particularly the last trimester, because the mother's body does not have time to produce antibodies to pass to the fetus.

If genital herpes is contracted during the latter part of pregnancy, or if the mother has long-standing genital herpes or symptoms during the time of labor, it is a good idea to opt for a cesarean section delivery versus a vaginal one.

There are only two situations where the fetus is at risk of contracting genital herpes:

* During the first trimester, a severe initial outbreak occurs that can result in a miscarriage. This is very rare and can also occur as a result other virus infections.

* During the last trimester, a severe initial outbreak occurs. This is risky because a large amount of virus is present with little time for the mother to develop protective antibodies. Neonatal herpes can be fatal but is rare in developed countries. Careful monitoring and use of treatment and/or choosing to get a C-section can decrease likelihood of neonatal herpes.

If an expectant mother or her sexual partner has genital herpes, it's important to tell the doctor so that s/he will take the proper precautions.

If the mother is not infected, but the partner is, take these precautions during pregnancy:

* Use latex condoms if you engage in sexual intercourse throughout pregnancy.

* To reduce genital herpes recurrences, the male should take oral antiviral drugs (http://herpes-virus.org/treatments.htm) throughout the pregnancy
* Avoid oral sex during pregnancy if the male has facial herpes.

* Get regular checkups and discuss the prospect of a C-section.

If the expectant mother HAS genital herpes, the chances of passing the virus to the unborn child are again, slim, due to the presence of antibodies in the body that will be passed to the child. However, here are some tips to reduce the risk even more:

* Be certain that your physician, obstetrician or midwife is aware of your genital herpes diagnosis.

* During labor, examine yourself for any genital symptoms(http://herpes-virus.org/default.htm) - sores, itching, tingling or tenderness.

* Early in the pregnancy discuss the options for controlling an active herpes outbreak at the time of delivery. The choices are to carry on with a vaginal delivery or to have a Cesarean section.

* Request that your physician does not manually break the water around the infant unless necessary. The bag may help prevent any virus in the birth canal from being contracted.

* Request that your physician does not use a fetal scalp monitor during labor to monitor the baby's heart rate unless medically required. This instrument makes tiny punctures in the baby's scalp, which may allow the virus to enter. Often, an external monitor can be substituted.

* Request that doctors do not use forceps during delivery. They may cause breaks in the baby's scalp, which may allow the virus to enter.

* After delivery, closely monitor the infant for about 4 weeks for symptoms of neonatal herpes: blisters, fever, fatigue, irritability, or lack of appetite. If any of these are noticed, take the infant to a doctor immediately.

If these and other pregnancy guidelines are followed, the infant is less likely to contract the virus. To decrease chances of outbreaks during pregnancy, it is advisable to take some form of treatment (http://herpes-virus.org/treatments.htm). Many people opt for natural treatments that have been proven to decrease duration, frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks. Some natural compounds have even been found to significantly reduce the chance of passing herpes to infants.
About the Author
Dylan Morris is a freelance writer and supporter of nutraceuticals, natural, herbal treatments for disease control and prevention. Visit http://herpaflor.com/ for more information.
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