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Herpes and your baby

Herpes is an infection caused by a virus. If you have genital herpes, you can pass the infection to your baby during pregnancy, labour or birth. It’s not that common but yes, it happens. Some babies also get herpes from others after birth. If not treated, herpes can cause serious health problems, including deadly infection. Herpes affects about 1 in 3,500 babies in the USA every year.

How can babies get herpes?
Babies can get herpes in three ways:
1.Before birth (also called intrauterine herpes). Women can pass the virus to the baby in the uterus (also called the womb). This kind of herpes is rare.
2.During labour and birth (also called birth-acquired herpes). This usually happens when a baby passes through an infected vagina. It’s the most common way babies get infected with herpes.
3.After birth. Mother or another person can pass the virus to the baby after birth. For example, if an adult person has herpes sore on lip and kisses baby’s skin, the virus can be passed to the child.

How to recognise if the baby has herpes?
There are several symptoms which might indicate that baby has herpes:
Bleeding easily and all of sudden
Small and red sores or blisters on the skin
Fast breathing, short periods without breathing
Baby skin looks blue
Fatigue, feeling very tired or exhausted
White parts of baby’s eyes look yellow
Poor feeding and no appetite

If your baby has herpes that isn’t treated, he can go into shock. This means organs in his body don’t get enough blood flow. If not treated, shock can cause a baby to go into a coma and die.

Herpes viruses also can cause a number of health problems in newborns, including:

Brain infection
If the herpes infection spreads to the brain, it can be deadly.

Eye disease
This is inflammation of the retina. It might cause blindness.

Multiple organ infections
This is when the herpes infection spreads to and affects several internal organs, like the liver, lungs and kidneys. This might be deadly.

Skin, eye and mouth infection
Small, fluid-filled blisters can appear on the skin and around the eyes and mouth. Blisters will heal leaving small scars behind.

How are newborns treated when they have herpes?
Acyclovir (also called as Zovirax® Injection) is an antiviral medicine used to treat herpes infections in babies. Early treatment with acyclovir can stop the spread of the infection to the brain and other organs. Baby may need to take acyclovir for several weeks depending on herpes condition. Some babies need serious treatment in hospital.

How to keep your baby safe?
Tell your health care provider you have genital herpes. This is obvious but needs to be repeated several times since adults are likely to hide such fact an even upfront doctor. If you are pregnant you might need to have C-section instead of natural birth to protect child. You might need Acyclovir treatment during pregnancy when it’s close to birth date.

If you have a herpes sore, keep you baby away from it. Do not kiss your baby if you have an outbreak. If you have herpes sore on your breast nipple or areola (the dark area around the nipple), stop breastfeeding on that breast and use breast’s milk pump instead and feed the baby through a bottle.

Is it crucial to keep the baby away from herpes, since having STDs from the first moment of being born, might have a deep influence on adulthood.