If you're pregnant and have herpes simplex virus (HSV), you're probably wondering how this infection will affect your unborn baby. You're not alone. Nearly 45 million Americans have genital herpes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And 800,000 pregnant women battle with this infection each year (out of the approximately 500,000 new cases of genital herpes annually in the US alone, about 1,000 cases are newborn babies). To help you ensure the health of your baby, here are answers to some common questions.
What risks do my baby and I face?
According to the March of Dimes, one in five pregnant women has been infected with genital herpes, although most do not know it. Because of this, obstetricians have always feared herpes, knowing that about half of babies born vaginally to women with legions risk getting the disease while the other half risk death. Fortunately, only a small minority of women will pass the infection on to their babies or suffer other pregnancy complications resulting from herpes.
"Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 new cases of neonatal HSV infection are diagnosed each year. Neonatal HSV infection may lead to long-term neurologic impairment and death," reports Dr. Richard Fischer, MD, do-division head of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.
The International Herpes Alliance (IHA) adds that neonatal herpes can cause "skin, eye, or mouth infections, damage to the central nervous system and other internal organs, mental retardation, or death." The organization also says, however, that medication may help prevent or reduce lasting damage if it administered to your baby early.