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Newborn Infants

Herpes Simplex Exposed Newborns

Introduction

infant 2 Newborn InfantsEither type of herpes simplex, herpes simplex 1, infecting mostly the soft tissue of the mouth and lip area, or simplex 2, which covers the genital area, may both be acquired by an infant.

History of the Mother

The herpes medical history of the mother is extremely important.  Many babies develop the infection after a vaginal delivery to a mother who has no knowledge that she has been previously infected. Delivery by caesarean section may lower the risk of an infant’s being infected.

Medication to Prevent the Spread of Herpes

Use of medications to suppress the virus by the mother will also help prevent any spread of the infection. Medications during the pregnancy may also be a problem.  As it is the usual practice to start medication at the first sign of a prodrome, the tingling and burning sensation that precedes an outbreak of the vesicles, this may not be possible during a pregnancy. Any medication is frowned upon during the first trimester of pregnancy.  This is the time that the infant is developing.

How do You Know if You Have Herpes?

Skin finds of the face and eyes may be noted.  Other, symptoms of more lethal problems may not be apparent during early examinations.  Evaluation of the lungs, body temperature, skin color, and abdomen for distended internal organs and neurological changes should frequent be done.  Laboratory testing, blood and cultures, will pinpoint any problems if they exist.

Be Honest With Your Health Care Provider

The problem of pregnancy with a herpes infected mother is a complicated one.  Good prenatal care and an honest sexual history by the mother is the most important thing that can be done. A mother who comes to her pregnancy having been already infected gives her child a chance of being born herpes free. This is also true for a woman who is infected during her pregnancy but before the third trimester.  This is because she has probably developed antibodies that will protect the child from an infection.

Herpes Infection During the Third Trimester

A mother who has been infected at the third trimester or later has not had the time to develop these antibodies.  Therefore her child will be born with a great chance of having the infection and the lethal effects that come with it. A mother with a herpes history but without an active lesion at the time of delivery will probably deliver a child without any apparent systems of herpes.

The parents should be educated as for the signs and symptoms that may present themselves. To a mother, with an active lesion present, a vaginal delivery will probably produce a child with a high possibility of infection.  Appropriate testing and treatment will be commenced.  A mother with active herpes lesions but delivered by caesarean sections will also find their child with an extremely possibility of developing an infection. It is important to consult with your doctor before making this decision.

Treatment and Education

Babies with possible infection will require hospitalization for further evaluation and treatment.  Outbreaks should be seen in the first 4 to 6 weeks after delivery.  The usual precautions and education of the parents should be given.  No skin to skin contact and frequent hand washing are just two of the principals to be followed.

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