Genital herpes simplex infection is herpes infection that involves the genital area. It can be significant during pregnancy because the newborn is at some risk of infection with the disease at the time of delivery.
The symptoms of genital herpes are painful clusters of small blisters in the genital area in and around the vaginal opening. At first the blisters tingle and itch. Then they become sore and break, leaving painful ulcers. Symptoms can also include aches and pains, fatigue and fever. The usual time duration of symptoms is 1 to 3 weeks. Subsequent outbreaks can occur at any time but are usually shorter and milder than the first outbreak.
A herpes infection early in pregnancy may be associated with an increase in miscarriage or premature delivery, but this is unusual. Infection in the mother is associated with low birthweight in the baby. We believe an infant can contract the infection when traveling through an infected birth canal. When membranes rupture, the infection may also travel upward to the uterus and infect the baby.
There is no effective cure for herpes. Acyclovir may decrease the intensity and duration of symptoms. The safety of acyclovir in pregnancy has been established. When a woman has an active herpes infection late in pregnancy, a Cesarean section may be performed to prevent the infant from traveling through the infected birth canal.
To avoid getting a herpes infection, you must know your partner is free from infection. If your partner suspects he has herpes, he should see a doctor for treatment. If your partner has herpes or could have been exposed to it, the best way to avoid the disease is through abstinence from sex during outbreaks and having him wear a condom during intercourse at other times.