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  Sexually transmitted diseases - Genital Herpes
I have heard that genital herpes can cause brain damage in babies. Since I have a recurring infection I wonder if I should make the decision not to have children?

The initial infection of genital herpes causes severe flu like symptoms, accompanied by a variety of genital discomfort. Open sores with a blister which turns crusty are indicative of this infection. For those three weeks of the initial infection, it is extremely contagious. For some people, there is only the one infection, but for many unlucky patients, the virus tends to rear its head repeatedly.

The biggest danger to the baby is a primary infection that occurs in the pregnancy. If it occurs early in the pregnancy it can cause miscarriage or early labour. Towards the end of the pregnancy a baby born to a woman with a primary herpes infection has roughly 25% chance of contracting the disease. The infection can cause blindness, skin infection and brain damage. However modern science means that the baby has the option of anti-viral medication at birth, and all precautions will be taken to reduce the risk.

Since your infection is well established, your baby would not face this risk. The chances of a baby contracting the virus in a situation such as yours, is very low. Since your doctor would be informed, all precautions would be taken to reduce the risk as much as possible. The main risk to the baby in your situation would be infection during delivery. Your doctor may opt for a caesarian birth to keep the risk to the baby as low as possible. If you want to consider a vaginal birth, the doctor may agree to test regularly towards the birth date, and even as labour starts, to ensure that you do not have an active infection during the labour.

Once your waters break the situation will be closely monitored, since the risk of infection is increased by a lack of amniotic fluid, and a caesarian may be the best option in this case.

Any baby born to a mother with genital herpes will probably be kept apart from the other babies. Since the immune systems of all the babies are undeveloped, this prevents any infection from spreading. As mentioned, new born babies at risk of genital herpes infection may be given anti-viral medication. In addition you will be trained in hygiene so that you can breastfeed your baby without transmitting the virus.

If you have genital herpes, whether or not you plan to get pregnant, you should take precautions not to transmit the disease during sexual intercourse. In particular you should avoid sex when you have lesions present.

See also:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Effects on baby

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Chlamydia

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Genital warts and HPV

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Gonorrhoea

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - HIV: Chances of infection

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - HIV: Implications

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - HIV: Testing

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - HIV: Syphilis

Sexually Transmitted Diseases - HIV: Trichomoniasis

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