Treating Pregnant Women & Newborns Who Have Herpes Virus

Transmission of Disease

The transference of STDs from a pregnant woman to her fetus, newborn or infant can happen at any time before, during or after birth.  There are certain sexually transmitted diseases which can cross the placenta and infect the unborn baby, risking developmental disorders.  Those which can be transmitted during delivery are gonorrhea, Chlamydia, hepatitis B and genital herpes.  Women who test positive for HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS, risk transmission to their baby through the placenta or through the birthing process - it can also be passed on through breastfeeding, something unique to HIV.

Effects on the Baby

The harmful and problematic results of sexually transmitted diseases to the baby include such things as stillbirth or a very low birth weight, infections in the eyes (conjunctivitis) or in the blood (neonatal sepsis), pneumonia, neurological damage to the motor functions or the brain, blindness, deafness, acute hepatitis, meningitis and chronic liver disease.  While these symptoms and diseases can be present at birth, they can also remain undiscovered for months or even years.

Infected babies sometimes develop sores and/or infections in their mouths, eyes or on their skin.  Should the infection remain localized in these areas, the infant will often go on to grow and develop normally.  Sadly, herpes infections in newborn babies can spread, infecting the brain and major organs.  These infected babies suffer from irritability, poor appetite and seizures.  Treatment is generally effective in only 50 percent of such infants, and about 10 percent of infected infants die of brain infections.  Should the baby survive, they will often develop lasting disabilities, mentally, neurologically or congenitally.

Treatment for Mother & Child

There are three drugs, called antiviral drugs, which can help a pregnant woman who is suffering a herpes attack and which can affect her symptoms positively.  These drugs are acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir - all recommended in a primary attack of herpes when the symptoms are serious.  Acyclovir can be given intravenously, orally or in ointment form and is often recommended for pregnant women.

Newborns are also treated with acyclovir, which has been found effective in treating localized infections and sores in the mouth, eyes or on the skin.  As infection spreads rapidly, it is imperative that treatment is administered early and acyclovir is less effective once the infection has spread to major organs or the brain.

When a pregnant woman has an active infection at the time of the birth of her baby, the delivery can be done by caesarean to protect the baby from infection.

Hear more about the common symptoms of herpes, like vaginal sores, in our STD forum.

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