1. Health

Can genital herpes cause any other health problems?

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Updated December 07, 2003

Usually, genital herpes infections do not cause major problems in healthy adults. In some people whose immune systems do not work properly, genital herpes episodes can last a long time and be unusually severe. (The body's immune system fights off foreign invaders such as viruses.)

If a woman has her first episode of genital herpes while she is pregnant, she can pass the virus to her unborn child and may deliver a premature baby. Half of the babies infected with herpes either die or suffer from damage to their nerves. A baby born with herpes can develop serious problems that may affect the brain, the skin, or the eyes. If babies born with herpes are treated immediately with acyclovir, their chances of being healthy are increased. Therefore, if you are pregnant and infected with genital herpes, you should stay in close touch with your doctor before, during, and after your baby is born.

If a pregnant woman has an outbreak and it is not the first one, her baby's risk of being infected during delivery is very low.

If a woman is having an outbreak during labor and delivery and there are herpes lesions in or near the birth canal, the doctor will do a cesarean section to protect the baby. Most women with genital herpes, however, do not have signs of active infection with the virus during this time, and can have a normal delivery.

Genital Herpes FAQS Table of Contents

Reprinted from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

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