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One of the biggest concerns in a developing country with lack of proper sex education is the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, otherwise called STDs. STDs in women can make the process of conceiving very difficult. Some known cases of STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea are known to cause difficulties in pregnancy.
The worst part is that some STDs that are treatable, often relapse during the worse phases of life when they are absolutely not needed - during pregnancy. Genital herpes is one such common condition which is known to affect the pregnancy and delivery process. Let us find out more about this STD and its effects on the mother and the baby.
What Is Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus or the HSV-2. This infection causes herpetic sores to develop in the affected area. These sores are often pus filled, which ooze fluid.
The HSV-2 virus is known to enter the body through the mucous membranes, and that is commonly why it causes blisters in the areas such as mouth, nose and the genitals. They infect the body fluids such as the saliva, mucus, semen or the genital discharge and this is what makes them so communicable.
The major symptoms of genital herpes are the appearance of pus-filled blisters on the genital organs of both males and females or around the mouth of the nose, if indulged in oral sex with the affected.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy And The Newborn?
Although, genital herpes is very common, statistics show that only 1 in 10,000 newborns contracts the disease, due to timely treatment to manage the symptoms of the infection. But it is still a grave concern among doctors as newborns do have serious consequences if they do contract the disease from their mother.
There are many cases that need to be considered before concluding whether the baby will contract the disease or not. First of all, it is important to determine at what stage the mother has contracted the infection. If the infection happens early during the pregnancy, the mother is deemed to be safe from transmitting the infection to the baby.
However, it is a grave concern if the mother contracts the infection during the third trimester as the baby is at the risk of contracting neonatal herpes. In such cases, a normal delivery is not at all recommended.
If the mother has had herpes before pregnancy, chances are that their bodies have produced the antibodies required to fight off the infection and this ability is passed onto the baby as well. But first-time infections during the third trimester of the pregnancy do not give the body enough time to produce the antibodies putting the baby at the risk of contracting the infection.
Babies contracting neonatal herpes are at the risk of developing severe symptoms such as blindness, brain damage or even death.
Is Natural Birth Possible If You Have Genital Herpes?
Natural birth is possible if the mother is affected with genital herpes, but under certain conditions-
- It is deemed safe for the mother to deliver vaginally while suffering from genital herpes if she does not show any signs of active infection, such as fresh sores, itching, pus secretion etc.
- If the doctor is in the known regarding the infection and if the mother is actively being treated for the symptoms.
Can You Breastfeed The Baby?
It is completely safe to breastfeed your baby while having genital herpes unless there is visible herpes sore on any of your breasts or even near it. The sores are known to spread near the mammary glands, in which case it is better to refrain from breastfeeding your baby.
If you are not sure of the sore being due to genital herpes, it is always best to get it checked by your physician.
What Are The Treatment Options Available For Genital Herpes?
Unfortunately, genital herpes cannot be completely cured. The virus is not removed from the system and may reoccur any time in life. For some, the relapse may happen more frequently than others. Your doctor may prescribe certain antiviral medications that may help manage the symptoms.
If you have contracted herpes during anytime before pregnancy and may not notice any signs of it during pregnancy, your body can still pass the infection to the baby.
The one thing you should know is to inform your doctor about your history with herpes and they may help prevent any complications to your newborn or yourself. Most things go wrong only due to the doctor not being in the know. Genital herpes can very easily be managed if your doctor knows about your infection beforehand.