Herpes During Pregnancy
A pregnant woman in her first trimester of pregnancy noticed that there was pain and burning sensation while urinating. On further self examination she found painful sores in her genital area. She consulted the doctor who got a sample of the scrapings from the sore tested. The results were positive for genital herpes infection.
Herpes during pregnancy
Genital Herpes is caused by the Herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV 1) or type 2 (HSV 2). Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. If the herpes infection occurs during pregnancy, the baby gets infected during delivery which may lead to serious complications in the baby.
The genital herpes infection spreads through sexual intercourse involving contact between genitals, oral sex (HSV-1 and HSV-2), vaginal sex, and also kissing (HSV-1 only). Even without sexual intercourse the infection spreads by coming into contact with the open sores. If the mother has herpes infection it transmits to the baby during delivery.
If a pregnant mother or a woman who is planning to get pregnant, is diagnosed with genital herpes she should consult the doctor immediately. Antiviral medications are prescribed by the doctor to prevent herpes infection during the time of delivery. There is a very high risk of the baby getting infected with the herpes infection, if the delivery takes place through the vagina. Hence, the doctors prefer to do a cesarean section that prevents the baby getting infected with herpes infection.
The symptoms of genital herpes infection occur 2 to 7 days after getting exposed to the infection. There is severe itching in the genital and anal area. Vaginal discharge can be seen in women. Fluid filled blisters arise in the genital area that burst open to leave small painful sores. There is fever accompanied by swelling of the lymph glands. While urinating there is extreme pain. Headache and backaches also occur. The infection lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.
A physical examination of the genital area is done by the doctor to check for any sores. A viral culture is done in which the doctor takes a sample from the sores and sends it to the lab for culture. A blood test is done to check for any antibodies of herpes simplex virus. In another diagnostic known as polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) test a sample of the tissue or spinal fluid is taken and analyzed which can help determine the type of HSV infection present in the patient.
To treat genital herpes, the doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs like valacyclovir, acyclovir and famicyclovir which help in decreasing the severity of the infection. Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is effective in preventing spread of the infection form one person to the other. If a pregnant mother is having herpes infection the baby is at high risk of getting the infection, if a normal vaginal delivery occurs. Hence, the doctors perform a cesarean delivery. If babies are born with herpes infection, treatment is given immediately to prevent any serious complications in the baby.
Preventing Genital Herpes
Taking precautions during sexual intercourse is very important. The male partner should use a latex condom whereas a female partner should use a female polyurethane condom. For oral sex, using a dental dam is advised, and for anal sex the use of a latex condom by the male is a must. Having multiple sexual relationships increases the risk of getting herpes infection. It is recommended that one should have sexual intercourse only with a partner who has been tested negative for all sexually transmitted diseases. One should be aware of the symptoms of herpes infection, and if one of the partners is showing any sores in the genital areas, he or she should consult the doctor immediately and should abstain from sexual intercourse till the treatment is completed. Hands should be washed thoroughly with antiseptic solution and water if one touches the infected sores.
Awareness regarding Herpes
According to reports, 1 out of every 2000 births in the United States there is transmission of herpes infection from the mother to the baby. Untreated herpes infection in the baby can lead to serious complications like seizures, mental retardation, blindness and even death. It is very important for partners who are planning to have a baby be aware of the risks of herpes infection.