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Reducing the Risk of Transmission of Herpes to Infants

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Updated July 03, 2014

The following measures are taken by health care providers to reduce the risk of transmission of the herpes simplex virus to infants:

  • At the first prenatal visit, all women should be asked whether they or their partner have a history of genital herpes. It is important for women to be honest about any known or concerning rash they, or their partner, have had in the past.
  • Pregnant women who do not have a history of genital herpes should be counseled about methods to avoid infection especially during the third trimester. A provider who discusses these issues is not making judgments about the woman being counseled; rather the provider is informing the woman about a potential risk of which she should be aware.
  • If the pregnant woman does not have a history of genital herpes, but her partner does, the partner should be encouraged to use a condom throughout the pregnancy.
  • The use of acyclovir taken regularly to suppress outbreaks should be considered in pregnant women with frequent genital herpes outbreaks.
  • Acyclovir should be given to all pregnant women with active genital herpes near their due date or at the time of delivery.
  • All women in labor should be asked about symptoms of genital herpes.
  • All women who are in labor and have an active outbreak of genital herpes should have a cesarean section.
  • Women who have herpes lesions that are not in the genital area do not have to have a cesarean section, but the lesions should be covered with an occlusive dressing before vaginal delivery.

Sources:

CDC. "Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 55(2006): 16-20.

Habif, Thomas, MD. "Warts, Herpes Simplex, and Other Viral Infections" Clinical Dermatology, 4th Edition. Ed. Thomas Habif, MD. New York: Mosby, 2004. 381-388.

Rouse, Dwight, MD and Jeffrey Stringer, MD. "An appraisal of screening for maternal type-specific herpes simplex virus antibodies to prevent neonatal herpes". American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 183 (2000): 400-6.

Rudnick, Caroline, MD, PhD, and Grant Hoekzema, MD. "Neonatal herpes simplex virus infections". American Family Physician. 65 (2002): 1138-42.

Yeung-Yue, Kimberly. "Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2." Dermatologic Clinics 20(2002): 1-21.

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