Pregnancy can be a wonderful, magical time for women. On the other hand, it can also be a stressful and challenging time. One common occurrence is cold sores or oral herpes which are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Herpes viruses tend to be easily spread during pregnancy because of weakened immune systems; and as anyone who has ever suffered from cold sores knows, there’s no cure. They’re incredibly common among adults even in times when they’re not pregnant; however these types of outbreaks may get worse during pregnancy because one’s body will battle through different changes such as weaker immune systems as well as higher levels of stress for example.
Many women experience an increased number of cold sores as pregnancy progresses. This may happen for two reasons: first, one’s immune function can be weakened during pregnancy and second, it’s common knowledge that simply being pregnant causes the body to undergo hormonal changes that affect different parts of the body in different ways.
Fortunately, the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores is not genetically inherited. This means that while a baby may have it in their mouth at birth, they won’t actually have it forever. Timing as well as location of cold sores during pregnancy are critical factors to consider when thinking about your baby’s safety.
The risk of infecting your baby is the highest when the mother contracts the HSV-1 virus in the last three weeks before she gives birth. Although this risk is uncommon, it may be one of the reasons some mothers have a child born with herpes while they’re pregnant.
One way for a baby to contract the herpes virus is by way of a mother who is infected with primary herpes having a primary infection during pregnancy. If an expectant mother begins exhibiting symptoms of genital herpes, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible via a simple blood test—and if you do, then you’ll be more prepared to avoid contracting transmission and save yourself unnecessary worry later down the line, if you do indeed have heredity herpes—because even though it’s mainly considered lifelong and incurable, there are still things you can do to help reduce the discomfort and pain ultimately resulting from an infection.
Mothers who develop recurrent herpes outbreaks during their pregnancies also experience immunity from future flare-ups. The same anti-viral antibodies that are passed on to the fetus through placenta protect the baby from acquiring the virus. And since not many mothers experience recurring herpes outbreaks when they are pregnant, this offers excellent protection over and beyond that which is already provided by the infant’s own immune system.
Women who have a venereal disease (such as genital herpes or gonorrhea) and also happen to be experiencing an active outbreak at the time of giving birth, run a heightened risk of infecting their child with these dangerous diseases because it’s only natural for them to carry out normal deliveries in this situation too. However, pregnancy is a very stressful time on the body of a woman and doctors may decide to opt for cesarean section deliveries if the mother is experiencing an active herpes, syphilis or other venereal virus outbreak at the time of delivery because they will be reluctant to let the baby come into contact with such dangerous microbes.
If there is no active outbreak at the time of delivery, a normal vaginal delivery is usually conducted. While it’s not a risk-free process, the chances of transmission to the newborn are greatly diminished.
Although unborn babies are protected for the most part by their mother’s immune system, it is still possible for them to become infected with the herpes virus due to lack of antibodies from their mothers. This is incredibly rare but if a baby does in fact contract herpes while in his/her mother’s womb or during birth, the consequences can be life-threatening.
Neonatal herpes is a virus that occurs at birth, transmitted from mother to baby. It can have devastating results affecting the newborn’s brain, eyes and internal organs. In rare cases it can also cause death. Thankfully, there are antiviral medications available that can significantly reduce the risk of permanent damage and mental impairment in about half of affected babies.
Even after birth, the risk of the child acquiring herpes from a family member is possible. In most cases, the baby gets infected by a family member with an active cold sore. It helps to inform family members and other persons close to the baby about how important it is for them not to transmit a cold sore to anyone and also how dangerous they can be for an infant who has a suppressed immune system.
If you are pregnant and experience either cold sores or genital herpes, most definitely consult your doctor to prevent infecting your baby.