The infection with the genital herpes simplex virus, commonly known as HSV or just herpes, is a very common disease that is sexually transmitted. Women are more vulnerable to that virus, especially when they are at reproductive age.
Herpes infection is not a main cause of worry at adult age. The infection, although not cured, can be controlled. The main concern about the HSV virus is with passing it on to newborn children.
In newborn babies, the infection has a very high mortality rate. Even when treated at early stages, the herpes infection can leave severe disabilities on the affected children. Herpes can also induce early labor, causing the baby to be born ahead of time.
Although herpes in adults is a very common disease, neonatal herpes fortunately is not. Babies are most in danger of being infected when the mother contracts the disease towards the end of the pregnancy.
That is because there is not enough time for the body of the mother to produce enough antibodies to fight the infection, causing it to spread more easily. When in early stages of the infection, herpes is more active and appears frequently.
The infection occurs when the baby has direct contact with the herpes on the birth canal during labor. When the mother has enough antibodies, they may be able to protect the baby, even if the infection is active. That is why the risk is greater if the contraption has happened at late stages of pregnancy.
Rise on the infections
It is estimated that approximately 45 million people are infected by the herpes virus in USA alone. It is more common in women. Almost 1 in every 4 women in reproductive age are infected. The male-female type of transmission is more effective, so women are more vulnerable to herpes.
Since the 1970s the number of herpes cases in the USA has increased around 30%. The most affected group are teenagers starting their sexual lives.
Herpes can infect the body but not manifest any symptoms for a while, which can cause the spread of it by people that did not know they were infected.
Although condoms are not 100% effective on stopping herpes transmission, they are very helpful on decreasing the chance of infection. People are consistently having sex without protection. That causes the increase of STDs and herpes is the most common of them.
Pregnant women are a high-risk group and should take extra care. That lack of care is causing the increase of herpes infection during pregnancy and the consequent increase on neonatal herpes.
The most important thing to prevent being infected is not to have sex with anyone while they are having an outbreak. That is the most dangerous time for being infected.
Herpes is passed through skin contact so, when there is an outbreak, even condoms or other forms of safer sex may not be effected. If they don’t cover the entire affected area, it is still a very high risk.
Again, pregnant women should be extra careful especially on the last trimester of pregnancy. If the pregnant woman already has herpes, a few precautions are due to insure the safety of the baby.
Protecting the baby
If the mother has had genital herpes for some time, the risk of spreading it to the baby is minimum. Still, there is some precautions she needs to take.
Firstly, talk to the obstetrician and be clear about having herpes. The obstetrician will be aware and able to decide the best way to deal with it during labor.
If there is an outbreak during the delivery, a caesarean might be the safest way for the baby to be born.
After the birth, watch the baby carefully for about three weeks. If any signs appear, take it to the doctor immediately and tell the doctor about the herpes.
By taking some simple cares, the health of the baby is assured and the mother can have a safe pregnancy and labor. Talk to the doctors and do the necessary for keeping the baby healthy.