Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) impacts 40 percent of women across the U.S. Pregnant women with herpes can transmit the virus to the skin, eyes, brain or central nervous system of their newborn. Herpes virus can cause blindness, disability and death. It is very important that adequate screening and treatment is considered throughout the pregnancy. Neonatal infection can occur in the uterus during pregnancy or during delivery, passing through the birth canal (vagina).
Midwife & leading women’s health expert, Elizabeth Stein CNM, MSN, MPH of Ask Your Midwife (http://www.AskYourMidwife.com), sheds light on this infection and explains what pregnant women with herpes can do to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth.
Here are six top tips to keep in mind:
1. A pregnant woman and her partner should be tested for the presence of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and Herpes Simplex 2 IgG antibodies (HSV 1 and HSV 2 IgG Ab). This is a blood test and should be done at the first prenatal visit. If you have been exposed to herpes virus or have had an outbreak, the virus is still in your body.
In response, your immune system will produce antibodies that last for life.
Antibodies are good - they usually prevent the virus from attacking your baby. The lack of antibodies means you can catch herpes. It takes your body approximately 8-12 weeks to develop antibodies (known as seroconversion) that could prevent herpes transmission to your fetus or newborn. Therefore, first infection during the last trimester of pregnancy (28-40 weeks) poses the greatest risk for your baby to become infected with neonatal herpes.
2. A pregnant woman should do everything she can to prevent infection in her newborn. If the woman does not have antibodies but her partner does, then the risk of first infection exists. A first herpes infection during pregnancy (especially the third trimester) poses a significant risk of infection of the fetus while in the womb as well as during delivery.