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Reducing the Risk of Transmission of Herpes to Infants


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.


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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