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Will I pass genital herpes to my baby?

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Pregnant women with genital herpes should be careful -- but not overly worried -- about passing the virus on to the baby.

A mother can infect their baby during delivery, often fatally. But if a woman had genital herpes before getting pregnant, or if they are first infected early in pregnancy, the chance that their baby will be infected is very low -- less than 1%. Women with genital herpes are examined carefully for any symptoms before giving bith. If sores or signs that an outbreak is coming show up at the time of delivery, the baby may be delivered by cesarean section (also called a C-section).

The risk of infecting the baby is high (30% to 50%) when a woman is newly infected late in pregnancy, however. That's because the mother's immune system has not developed protective antibodies against the virus. Women with an older herpes infection have antibodies against the virus, which help protect the baby. If you are pregnant and think you may have been infected recently, tell your doctor right away.

SOURCES: 
CDC. 
Warren, T., Warren, R. The Updated Herpes Handbook, 2002; p. 21.

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson on August 28, 2020

SOURCES: 
CDC. 
Warren, T., Warren, R. The Updated Herpes Handbook, 2002; p. 21.

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson on August 28, 2020

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