Herpes genitalis is one of the most prevalent sexually
transmitted infections. An affected adult shows local
symptoms if all, but an affected fetus or newborn
can suffer serious infection of the whole body. Herpes
in pregnancy rarely results in the fetus acquiring
the virus but a small number of pregnant women do
pass on the virus to their babies during labor and
delivery. It has been estimated that up to 90% of
people don't even know they have herpes. The good
part is a dose of acyclovir taken in the month of
delivery is effective in preventing an outbreak during
this crucial phase.
an antiviral medication is totally safe
to use in pregnancy. It is given orally
for five days if herpes is acquired
for the first time in the first and
second trimesters. In the last trimester
some OB will give acyclovir preventively
from week 36 onwards to medicate primary
• People can become infected with herpes during
their childhood with no obvious symptom. The most
common 'cold sore' is a herpes symptom. Adults get
herpes from kissing, oral sex and genital sexual contact.
• Having entered the body, the virus remains
there in the nervous system, hiding from the body's
immune system. During times of stress, fatigue, or
during low emotional phases, painful lesions (outbreaks)
show up frequently or infrequently in the person mostly
around or inside the vagina.
• During pregnancy the herpes virus is rarely
passed on to the baby because the mother's antibodies
cross the placenta into the baby's system and offer
some immunity against the infection.
• Sadly, pregnant mothers infected with the
virus for the first time are more likely to pass on
the infection to their babies at birth or before birth
through the placenta if they become infected in late
pregnancy. Also known as primary infection, the first
outbreak of herpes can be passed on to the fetus through
the placenta in the absence of maternal antibodies.
The medication acyclovir may be prescribed orally
or intravenously to prevent fetal abnormalities.
• Any pregnant woman with active herpes blister
in the birth canal is likely to pass the virus to
the newborn during delivery. For this reason cesarean
is performed to prevent newborn from becoming infected.
• It is the standard practice for pregnant women
with recurrent or active herpes infection to undergo
a section to minimize neonatal infection.
• Herpes can cause neonatal herpes which is
life-threatening. This essentially causes eye or throat
infections, mental retardation, damaged central nervous
system and even death of the baby. To reduce neonatal
herpes, acyclovir will be given to the newborn as
• Breastfeeding is possible and it is certainly
not discouraged, but with an added emphasis on hygiene.