Herpes and pregnancy

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:49 pm
If herpes is transmitted to a newborn, it can cause serious consequences, including neurological problems, mental retardation, or even death. Most danger arises from genital herpes, or HSV-2, (H-S-V two) though oral herpes, or HSV-1, (H-S-V one) can also be harmful. Fortunately, infection of infants is rare, particularly if the mother acquired the herpes virus before pregnancy. It's believed that women with long-standing herpes infections have built up a number of antibodies, which are then passed on to the fetus. The greatest risk occurs when a woman first acquires genital herpes during pregnancy, especially in her last trimester. While herpes can cross the placenta to the fetus, most transmission occurs when the baby contacts the virus in the birth canal during delivery. Thus, if a woman is having a herpes outbreak when labor begins, the doctor will perform a cesarean (suh-SAIR-ee-uhn) section and remove the baby through the abdomen. If no lesions are present, a vaginal delivery is made. You can greatly reduce the chance of neonatal herpes by letting your doctor know if you're infected. Other expectant mothers should have a test for herpes, even if they've never had any symptoms. Men with either oral or genital herpes should take steps to protect their partner, including using condoms and avoiding sex during an outbreak.

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