Is Herpes During Pregnancy Dangerous to the Baby?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

I have herpes simplex virus and have just found out that I am pregnant. Will it affect my baby before it's born?

Doctor's response

Herpes simplex virus in pregnancy and labor is an extremely complicated problem to tackle. A new infection in the last trimester of pregnancy has the potential to cause trouble for the baby. The most serious complication for the baby is severe neurological malfunction or death, regardless of whether or not the mother is currently having symptoms of herpes or having silent herpes infection. If a doctor makes a diagnosis of possible herpes in pregnancy, treatment with acyclovir may be indicated. Vaginal delivery is not contraindicated in all women with herpes. Cesarean section is often considered for women having symptoms in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is lack of proper scientific research information to guide the decision. If vaginal delivery does occur in a woman having signs of herpes infection late in pregnancy, the doctor may treat the baby and mother with acyclovir after delivery, or acyclovir may be given to the mother during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Medical Author: Carolyn Janet Crandall, M.D.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018