Herpes in Women

May 20, 2012 No Comments by

Herpes is a life long condition caused by a virus.  Contracted through intimate contact, genital herpes can be especially difficult for women, since it can affect their ability to bear children in the future.

Herpes in women has a direct impact on their ability to get pregnant; sustain a pregnancy; and give birth to a healthy infectious-free baby.

Does Herpes Affect Fertility?

Most research in regards to herpes in women is encouraging when it comes to actual fertility.  Most studies agree that the herpes virus des not affect a woman’s ability to conceive when it comes to the reproductive system itself.  It can, however, affect how long it takes to get pregnant simply due to the fact that every time an outbreak occurs, it is imperative to stop engaging in unproductive sex.  Since stress can also cause outbreaks, it is important to keep stress levels low to lesson the chance of an outbreak while trying to conceive.

Can Herpes in Women Affect the Birthing Process?

The biggest concern among doctors seems to be the chance that the virus could be passed on during the birthing process. That is why most physicians recommend a caesarean section, regardless of the mother’s herpes status at the time she goes into labor. While it is not believed that the virus can pass from mother to child if open sores and blisters are not present, the research on this is somewhat sketchy, with no absolute proof that that is the case. So, most doctors and patients prefer a more conservative approach to ensuring the safety of the baby to a herpes active mother.

The main reasons for this extra caution is that viral shedding, or the time in which the virus reproduces itself and can become as contagious as it would be during an acute outbreak, can occur at anytime and without any visible signs or symptoms. A doctor can not even determine when viral shedding is taking place.  Should this occur during the labor process, the baby would be at high risk of contracting the disease during delivery which could result in deadly consequences.

It is important to note here that vaginal births with no outward signs of an attack (open sores, blisters, itching or burning) and during non viral shedding times is considered completely safe for both mother and child.

Can Pregnancy Make a Baby Immune to Contracting Herpes?

There is some research to indicate that babies can receive certain antibodies from their mother’s during the gestation period which protects them from contracting the virus either in utero or during the birthing process. Still, the facts on this remain unclear and most women prefer to take all necessary safety precautions to ensure a safe delivery.

The Underlining Dangers of Herpes in Women During Pregnancy

While herpes is generally considered safe for both mother and child during pregnancy, there are several exceptions which could be extremely dangerous to the fetus:

  •  During the first trimester – a woman who has lived with herpes for some time does not have to worry during her first trimester that it can affect the outcome of her pregnancy. But, women who contract the disease during the first three months of pregnancy should report her health status to her doctor right away.  Herpes contracted during the first trimester of a pregnancy often results in a miscarriage due to the strength of the outbreak and inundation of the virus of the body.
  • During the third trimester – again, women who have suffered with herpes in the past have nothing to worry about here, but those who contract the disease during the end of their pregnancies must be prepared for the possibility that the baby will be born with herpes.  Since the mother’s body ahs not has the time to give the baby sufficient antibodies against the disease, most babies whose mother’s contract herpes during the final 10-12 weeks of the pregnancy are indeed infected. This can result in stillbirth or infant death.

Even though the dangers of herpes in women during pregnancy are included something to be wary of, it is important to understand that the vast majority of pregnancies result in both a safe delivery and a healthy newborn.  The key to a successful outcome is to be honest with your doctor about your herpes history and follow all guidelines set by him/her to give you and your baby the best chance at a healthy delivery.

For more detailed information about genital herpes and how it can impact a pregnancy, contact the Herpes Hotline at 919-361-8488 or the CDC Hotline at 1-800-232-4636.  They can give you the most up to date information about herpes in women and the effects it can have on a pregnancy.


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