When you are pregnant and dealing with fluctuating hormones, fierce looking blisters around your mouth can add to the stress you experience during this time. However, the biggest question in everyone’s mind is whether this Infection is likely to harm the unborn Baby.
Herpes Simplex Virus: The Reason For Cold Sores
Only 10% of the population has been spared from being affected by a cold sore. According to the American Association of Dermatology, half the people in the United States are carriers of the Herpes Simplex Virus, which is responsible for causing cold sores (1). Hence, it isn’t that inconceivable to imagine the pregnant woman being a carrier herself, or being with someone who is carrying the virus.
Additionally, given the physical and hormonal changes that occur in a pregnant woman, she is highly susceptible to an HSV infection. She may, in addition to getting blisters, show signs of becoming feverish and experience swelling in her glands. But is this outbreak a mere nuisance or can it also affect the fetus?
What Should An Expectant Mother Do When Infected?
There are two varieties of the herpes simplex virus: strain 1 affects areas around the lips, while strain 2 causes blisters near the genitals. The blisters and sores usually heal in roughly two weeks (2). They are the most virulent when they are secreting a clear liquid; however, this has no way of infecting the unborn child who is safe in the placenta.
In such an event, all the mother has to do is eat healthily and stay active in order to improve her immunity. But in case of genital herpes, it is possible for the child to be infected at the time of delivery, although chances of this happening can be reduced if the mother applies a medicated cream on the blisters. Doctors also prescribe oral medication that is considered safe for pregnant women. Depending on how severe the infection is, and how strong your immune system is, treatment can vary (3).
If You Have An Infection Post-Delivery
It could be possible for you to be still infected after giving birth. Unfortunately, even if the wounds have healed into harmless looking scabs, the virus is still present in the body. Therefore, the mother of a newborn should be doubly careful about her hygiene. The newborn has not yet developed an immune system, and seeing as HSV is a very contagious infection, every measure should be taken to protect the baby from getting infected.
According to the National Health Service (UK), if you suspect your baby of having contracted the virus, watch out for the following signs and symptoms: flopping down with no energy, refusing to be fed, developing a rash, breathing unevenly or having discoloration in the tongue or skin (4). If identified correctly, treatment can be given to the baby to fight the infection.
A mother who is infected should also follow certain precautions to protect her infant. She should constantly wash her hands with an antiseptic. She must not kiss the baby or hold it close to her face. She must not touch her cold sores. But if she accidentally does touch it, she must not touch other parts of her body without washing her hands.
Additionally, particular care must be taken while she is nursing the baby. There might be tiny secondary sores near her breasts, and the virus in them will infect the baby. There is also a chance that she brings the baby close to her face and makes contact without realizing that she did it. So, the mother should always be mindful to keep the baby away from the infection. She can get help from an uninfected person to handle the baby and its things till she is completely free from the infection.
It is rare, but not unknown for babies to be infected by mothers who are affected by herpes. Hence, follow the abovementioned advice and consult your healthcare provider when in doubt.
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