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The Causes of and Treatment Options for Constant Herpes Outbreaks While Pregnant

written by: Emjay Annavi Baclay • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 9/19/2010

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that plagues people worldwide, with complications that range from mild to severe. For women with constant herpes outbreaks during pregnancy, consequences can sometimes be life-threatening to the child. But proper treatment can manage its consequences.

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    Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, resulting from a type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) that enters the body. Its symptoms may appear unnoticeable, which renders the infected person unaware that she has contracted the disease. When noticed, signs include the presence of small red bumps, open sores, blisters, and a painful or itchy sensation around the genital, anal, and other nearby spots.

    Constant herpes outbreaks on a pregnant woman can have devastating consequences on the infant, but experts note that risks are low and incidences are substantially rare. Conventional treatment methods include intake of antiviral medications, as employed through episodic or suppressive treatment.

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    Causes

    The two types of herpes simplex virus cause the development of genital herpes. In order to infect an individual, the virus is must break entry into the body through the mucus membrane or cracks in the skin.

    HSV 1: This type of HSV is generally transmitted through saliva, which results in symptoms such as sores or blisters in the mouth area. Kissing, sharing personal belongings, and shared utensil use are the primary activities that spread the virus. Recently, scientists discovered that the virus can also be sexually transmitted— a factor that accounts for half of genital herpes incidences. As such, engaging in oral sex also allows viral contraction to occur.

    HSV 2: This type of HSV is a more common leading cause of herpes, and is transmitted sexually. The highly contagious virus is usually spread through sexual or skin-to-skin contact, regardless of the presence or absence of an open sore. Its symptoms may be less recognizable than those of HSV 1.

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    Pregnancy Complications

    Constant herpes outbreaks during pregnancy, or simply having the disease, render the pregnant woman more prone to miscarriage, retarded growth of the fetus, premature labor, or causing newborn infection.

    Despite low risks and few recorded incidences, herpes during pregnancy are capable of infecting the newborn to the point of threatening the baby’s life. Risks are higher if the infant is delivered while active blisters abound in the mother’s vaginal area. As the infant goes through the birth canal, open sores found around the vagina can cause the baby to contract infection. Brain damage, eye defects or blindness, and the baby’s death are some of the low-risk but possible consequences of herpes outbreaks during pregnancy.

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    Treatment

    Once contracted, there is no definitive cure for the disease. However, proper treatment methods can manage viral transmission, the effects and complications of genital herpes, and the frequency and duration of the infection.

    • Antiviral Drugs are nucleosides that are orally administered for optimal effects. These drugs help inhibit viral replication, spreading, and multiplication on the skin surface. In the form of tablets, the three approved and available antiviral drugs are famciclovir, acyclovir, and valaciclovir. Medications are employed either through episodic or suppressive treatment.
    • Episodic treatment is characterized by immediate disease management as soon as an outbreak occurs or is suspected to occur. When medications are taken as soon as the first symptom is identified, this method can prevent the outbreak. Episodic treatment may involve acyclovir intake five times daily on a five-day span, valacyclovir intake twice a day for five days, or famiciclovir twice for a 1-day period.
    • As the name suggests, suppressive treatment involves daily intake on a long-term basis, in order to reduce risks of another outbreak recurrence. This treatment may involve acyclovir and famiciclovir intake twice in one day, or taking valacyclovir once per day. Suppressive treatment is usually recommended to manage more frequent outbreak recurrences, or for those who experience 6 or more outbreaks on an annual basis.

    Because of the nature of the method, suppressive treatment should commonly be used by women who experience constant herpes outbreaks during pregnancy. However, in order to ensure that the prospective type of treatment best suits the pregnant individual: A doctor’s advice is essential.

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