Herpes and Pregnancy
When it happens intentionally, the state of pregnancy is meant to be one exciting experience. The anticipation of the joy that motherhood brings is reason enough for every expectant mother to go through the whole nine months patiently. Moreover, as the fetus grows inside the mother, a certain connection develops between them making pregnancy very fulfilling. Despite the expected physiological changes including morning sickness, pregnancy should be enjoyed. However, when there is a major imbalance in the mother’s health, pregnancy becomes a burden. More specifically, disease processes that occur in any system of the body will adversely affect the pregnancy. A case in point is herpes and pregnancy. These two are conditions in the body; the former pathological while the latter is physiological. However, herpes just like any other disease impairs the quality of life of the expectant mother.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by a virus known as Herpes Simplex (HSV) which is in two types. HSV 1 causes oral herpes while HSV 2 causes genital herpes. Sometimes, either virus can affect both regions of the body. Herpes and pregnancy is such a sensitive issue because the disease can be transmitted from the mother to the baby. The outcome of such a transaction is definitely not positive. On this basis,there should be herpes infection prevention in pregnancy. The mother is usually infected through sexual contact with an infected person as well as via skin to skin contact. Once infected, a person may remain asymptomatic for a long time. Moreover even after treatment, recurrence may still occur several months later.Symptoms manifesting immediately after infection include painful sores over the genital area, odorous vaginal discharge, itchiness around the genitalia and flu like symptoms. When symptoms occur much later after infection, they are typically milder.
It is of utmost importance to protect the unborn child from contracting this viral infection. The risk of mother to fetus transmission varies depending on the gestational age of the pregnancy. During early pregnancy, within the first three months, there is a greater chance of passing the infection to the unborn child. The later-most part of pregnancy carries a much higher risk of infection transmission. Educating mothers to be on matters of herpes and pregnancy will enable them prevent infection of their babies in the event that they do have the disease. Every expectant mother who has herpes should consult their general practitioner or midwife. This will help them plan to protect their babies.
The big question is, what are the possible complications that occur when the infection spreads to the baby? Well, depending on the stage of pregnancy, the effects vary. During the first trimester the greatest danger is that of developing a miscarriage. The probability of this occurring is on the lower side but that is not to be taken lightly. The baby may not be affected at all. However, herpes and pregnancy in the third trimester is a lethal combination especially within the last six weeks of pregnancy. The reason for this is that the body will not be able to produce antibodies against the virus within such a short period. Consequently, the baby remains unprotected.herpes and pregnancy herpes and pregnancy
It may be infected when it comes in contact with genital sores during vaginal delivery. The baby then develops what is known as neonatal herpes.
Neonatal herpes is a rare occurrence with about one or two babies in a population of hundred thousand getting it. However when it occurs, it is very life threatening. It begins manifesting within the first twenty eight days of life with multi-systemic symptoms. It affects the central nervous system with possible mental retardation. It also leads to eye,throat and skin infections. Constitutional symptoms like irritability, poor appetite and fever also occur. Sometimes it becomes fatal resulting in death. Fortunately, specialized care by a professional health care provider will greatly help in preventing neonatal herpes.
Most expectant women with herpes wonder whether they have to use a specific mode of delivery. Usually, the choice is to opt for Cesarian delivery over the normal vaginal delivery. This situation is however subjective and the answer lies in whether the mother’s infection occurred early or late in pregnancy. An indication for C section in herpes and pregnancy is infection within the last six weeks of pregnancy. However, if the infection occurred in early pregnancy but the mother has active sores during labor, Cesarian section is indicated. Having the first attack of herpes during pregnancy may also call for delivery via C section. The operational delivery aims to reduce contact between the baby and the mother’s infected genitalia.
Vaginal delivery is still an option for expectant mothers who have herpes. It is important though to closely involve the doctor or midwife so as to protect the unborn baby. Certain measures can be put in place to that effect.The mother may be given an antiviral, acyclovir , during the delivery process.The drug is administered intravenously and helps to reduce risk of transmission to the baby. The baby itself may be given acyclovir after birth. Secondly, the doctor will minimize invasive instrumentation during delivery. Procedures such as fetal blood sampling and fetal scalp electrodes for monitoring are discouraged as they increase chances of infection.Similarly, artificial breaking of the bag of waters is risky as natural protection against infection will be lost. Assisted vaginal delivery in the form of vacuum use may cause breaks in the baby’s scalp leading to infection.
Clearly, herpes and pregnancy requires specialized care for a healthy pregnancy outcome. The simplest way to manage any disease process is to prevent its initial occurrence. Pregnant women and everyone else for that matter should use protection during sexual contact. If one’s partner has herpes, they should abstain from sex until the outbreak ends so as to prevent infection. On the other hand, taking good care of the baby after delivery will also decrease risk of Peri-natal infection. Since both oral and genital herpes can infect babies, maintaining hand hygiene when handling the baby is necessary. In case of a cold sore, avoid kissing the baby. Herpes in pregnancy can be managed well with positive results.