What are the risks to my unborn baby if I have genital herpes?

The biggest concern with genital herpes¬†during pregnancy¬†is that you might transmit it to your baby during labor and delivery. Newborn herpes is relatively rare (about 1,500 newborns are affected each year), but the disease can be devastating, so it’s important to learn how to reduce your baby’s risk of becoming infected.

You can transmit herpes to your baby during labor and delivery if you’re contagious, or “shedding herpes virus,” at that time. The risk of transmission is high if you get herpes for the first time (a primary infection) late in your pregnancy.

Much less commonly, you can transmit the virus if you’re having a recurrent infection. If you’ve ever had a herpes outbreak, the virus remains in your body and can become reactivated.

In rare cases, a pregnant woman may transmit the infection to her baby through the placenta if she gets herpes for the first time in her first trimester. If a baby is infected this way, the virus can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects.

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