The purpose of this article is to provide nurses with information about herpes simplex virus (HSV): its transmission and diagnosis, and the recommended management during pregnancy and birth. Genital herpes is one of the three most common, chronic sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Diagnosis of HSV infection is challenging, because obtaining cultures of lesions can be difficult and delays occur before accurate results are available. Serological testing can determine whether a person has had the infection, but antibodies are not present in sufficient quantities for about 6 to 12 weeks after exposure, leaving a large window of time for false-negative results. Pregnant women who have genital herpes present a complex management situation because fetal exposure to the virus during the birth process can lead to neonatal infection and high morbidity and mortality rates. Appropriate physical, psychological, and educational management of seropositive and/or symptomatic women during pregnancy, coupled with prompt diagnosis and treatment of infected newborns, offers the best hope for positive outcomes.
Nurses caring for pregnant women need to understand how to deal with HSV and its possible impact on pregnancy and the newborn.
Katherine J. Perozzi is a Clinical Assistant Professor, Robert Morris University School of Nursing, Moon Township, PA.
Kirstyn Kameg Zalice is a Clinical Assistant Professor, Robert Morris University School of Nursing, Moon Township, PA.
Valerie Howard is an Assistant Professor, Robert Morris University School of Nursing, Moon Township, PA.
Lisa Skariot is a Staff Nurse, UPMC Montefiore Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA.
Katherine J. Perozzi can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are no conflicts of interests.