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Herpes and Childbirth
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Herpes and Childbirth
Since I get recurrent herpes outbreaks and am pregnant--my
doctor has suggested that i go on a suppressive therapy for the
last month or two of pregnancy to avoid an active outbreak
during labor/delivery (which would warrant a c-section). i am
wondering if anyone has taken the anti-viral therapy for herpes
during pregnancy. I'm not too comfortable with it but would
like to avoid a c-section if possible.
I took a viral suppressant (Valtrex?) for the last month of my
pregnancy, had no side effects, suffered no outbreaks, and
delivered a happy, healthy baby. I didn't do my own research,
but my well-informed ob/gyn assured me that there's no evidence
of ill effects from viral suppressants on infants. I had one
outbreak early in my pregnancy, and I preferred the slight,
unknown risk of taking the drug to the clearly increased risk of
I have had 2 children and went on supressive therapy for both.
I also was quite concerned about it (both kids were born
naturally with no drugs, and I even went off coffee during the
pregnancies), but both kids are fine. All the research I found
indicated that it was pretty safe. In addition, the
alternatives are worse (ie, either a cesarean or really worse,
not and passing the herpes to the child during childbirth).
Good luck to you!
I think that your doctor would have you take Zovorax or
Acyclovir which is the common antiviral for herpes. It shouldn't
be a problem for your baby. I have cold sores and often take
acyclovir for outbreaks. My doctors have told me that it's not a
problem taking them with breastfeeding and i think they also
said that they give antivirals to preemies for various viral
infections. Please double check with your doctor but i think it
I took acyclovir for both of my pregnancies. I had wonderful
normal labors and vaginal births; I'm fine, my kids are fine.
Know that vaginal herpes can transmit itself to the neonate's
eyes thus causing ocular herpes, and, in some scenarios, cause a
quality of corneal scarring that can impair vision, or, in some
instances, leave one blind.
I urge you to take the antibiotics course
Adamant and knowledgeable about this one
I would recommend you get answers from your OB/midwife to have a
clearer understanding of suppression methods and medication.
Generally, though, acyclovir (zovirax) taken starting at about
34-36 weeks has been shown to reduce outbreaks at term and did
not show toxicity in babies (in the limited studies available).
Apparently Lysine is often recommended as a dietary supplement.
Here's some links, but do not hesitate to have an informative
discussion with your care provider as well. I'm a doula, and a
few of my clients have successfully treated with zovirax and had
Certain recommendations like reducing stress, avoiding certain
foods can also help with reducing your risk of outbreak close to
the end of term.
I went on suppressive therapy for the last month of both of
my pregnancies, and ended up delivering two perfectly
healthy daughters. The suppressive therapy is about more
than just avoiding a c-section should you have a known
outbreak. Remember, it is possible that you could be
shedding the herpes cells during labor and not know it, the
consequences of which could be fatal to your baby. I don't
want to scare you, but I just think the negatives to taking the
preventative medication are minor compared to the major
complications of passing on herpes to a baby. Best wishes
to you and your baby.
I have herpes and have had three successful vaginal births. I don't have
very frequent outbreaks, so I chose not to take acyclovir, which DOES cross
the placenta, though (I believe) it's not known how it affects the fetus. But
I did do a serious diet modification at the end of each pregnancy, avoiding
foods with arginine (such as nuts, chicken, chocolate, dairy, meat) and
trying to eat more lysine-rich foods. I also took lysine supplements. There
are many other recommendations for avoiding outbreaks (recommendations
that are less invasive than acyclovir), including echinacea; vitamins C, B
complex, E and A; chlorophyll, wheatgrass and blue-green algae; zinc;
acupuncture, etc. I definitely didn't do all of these, but I did some of them,
and never had an outbreak when I was ready to deliver my babies. I would
urge you to look into alternative ways to suppress herpes. Also, just because
you have an outbreak doesn't mean you have to have a C-section. The risk is
greatest with the first outbreak, and not so great with subsequent ones.
Depending on where your lesions are, your doctor or midwife may be able to
''tape'' over them when you're delivering, or so I've been told. Anyway, good
Do a careful assessment of the risks for your infant. I had two
vaginal births and a caesarian and in the end felt no difference
in the experience - no special gain from having done the vaginal
births, and no loss from having a caesarian. If you are fit - I
left the hospital the day after the caesarian - you'll find out
that it's what happens after the birth that dominates the
I took acyclovir to suppress herpes towards the end of both of
my pregnancies. While I was told that a severe infection
passing onto the baby during a vaginal birth was unlikely if it
was not a primary breakout (happening for the first time), no
one could tell me that there was no chance of this happening.
Given the severity of the type of infection and disability that
can occur in a newborn from herpes exposure and the number of
women who take acyclovir in pregnancy with no problems, for me
it was pretty obvious what I would do. An ob/gyn friend who
works at Kaiser also said that taking acyclovir under these
circumstances is pretty standard. Good luck deciding and have a
I also have recurring outbreaks. I was prescribed Acyclovir in
the last 3 week of pregnancy. I wish I had taken it sooner
because I had an outbreak at about three weeks and my son was
born 2 1/2 weeks early(no connection). I was really upset at the
prospect of a C-section for this reason since it could have been
avoided. This story has a happy ending though, since my
outbreaks are very short, about 1 1/2 -2 days and it was gone by
the day he was born. Also, the location was in a 'safer' spot. I
was able to have a great vaginal birth which was also quick and
unmediated. It was luck that I had this experience but I
certainly wouldn’t have had it with an active outbreak. If I
had had an outbreak my (and my son's) birth experience would
have been much different, guaranteed. I'm sorry I wasn't on the
Acyclovir long enough to have any feedback about effect on me or
the baby but I am pregnant again and will be starting the
suppressive therapy at 4-6 weeks this time. I have spoken to 2
or 3 OBs and all say the Acyclovir has been used for years
(decades?) with no ill effect but I haven't done any in depth
research. All I know is that I trust my OB and I don't want to
risk a C-section if I don't have to. I'd rather save that option
for the unavoidable emergency.
I, too, have herpes and have had two children. In both
cases my OB recommended taking Zovirax (orally) during
the last two months of pregnancy, even though my
outbreaks are rather rare. In neither case did I have any
adverse reactions or any effects that I was aware of. I think
there's been quite a bit of research on the effects of these
anti-virals on pregnancy and the potential benefits (i.e.
avoidance of infection of newborn) far outweigh any risks of
the anti-virals themselves. I'm no expert on this, though. but
in my case(s) I didn't have any problems. As an aside, for
completely separate reasons I ended up having two
c-sections, and even though they were both unexpected they
went extremely smoothly, I had very little pain or discomfort
(relatively speaking) and both were still very special birth
experiences. I'm certainly not advocating c-section as a first
choice, but if for some reason you require one it really can
be an OK experience. At least, they were for me. Hope this
this page was last updated: Nov 19, 2006
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