Herpes and Pregnancy: Did You Know?
  • 20-25 percent of pregnant women have genital herpes.
  • Less than 0.1 percent of babies get neonatal herpes.
  • The spread of herpes to newborns is rare.
  • Most mothers with a history of herpes have normal vaginal deliveries.
  • Women who acquire genital herpes before becoming pregnant have a low risk of transmitting the virus to their baby.
  • Newborns may be infected by mothers who first get herpes just before giving birth. Mothers have not had enough time to build up natural protection (immunity) and when the virus is active during delivery, the baby is at risk.
  • HSV can also be spread to the baby if someone kisses the baby with an active cold sore.
  • In rare instances, HSV can be spread by touch.
  • An infant with herpes can become very ill, causing eye or throat infections, damage to the central nervous system, mental retardation or death.
  • Medication may help prevent or reduce lasting damage if treated early enough.
  • It is important to take precautions: use condoms regularly or abstain from sex until after the baby is born.
  • If a woman has active herpes at time of delivery, a Cesarean section is usually performed.

If You're Pregnant and You Have Had Herpes:

  • Talk with you doctor or health provider.
  • Be examined at labor to see if there are herpes symptoms.
  • Notify the doctor if you think you have active symptoms during labor.

If You're Pregnant and Your Partner Has Herpes:

  • Avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy.
  • Don't risk giving herpes to your baby. A first episode during late pregnancy and delivery may make your baby very sick.