Herpes and Pregnancy: What You Should Know
Can I deliver vaginally?
If you are not experiencing an active herpes outbreak, your doctor will most likely suggest a vaginal delivery (but he or she will plan on avoiding routine use of instruments). However, some doctors will proceed with a C-section. Unfortunately, as of 2007, there is insufficient information to clearly support one option or the other, says the IHA. As a result, this decision will need to be made by you and your doctor.
You and your doctor will also need to consider when you contracted herpes. If you were infected before your pregnancy, vaginal delivery is usually a safe option. The American Social Health Association (ASHA) says women who’ve acquired HSV prior to pregnancy have a lower risk of transmitting the virus to their babies. “This is because their immune systems make antibodies that are temporarily passed to the baby through the placenta. Even if herpes is active in the birth canal during delivery, the antibodies help protect the baby,” ASHA reports.
Pregnant women who are infected with genital herpes for the first time near the time of their delivery have a 30 to 50 percent chance of passing the infection on to their babies during a vaginal delivery whether they exhibit symptoms or not, adds the March of Dimes.
But, if you were first infected during the last trimester, “some doctors will recommend a Cesarean delivery under these circumstances, even if no outbreak is present,” says the IHA. A newly infected mother just doesn’t have the antibodies in place yet to fight this virus, so there isn’t enough natural protection for the baby to have a vaginal birth. (Also, new herpes infections are more active than older ones, increasing the possibility of a breakout in the birth canal during labor and delivery.)
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