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Consequences of herpes simplex virus in pregnancy and their prevention

Baker, David A

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: February 2007 - Volume 20 - Issue 1 - p 73–76
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e328013cb19
Sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections

Purpose of review New findings reveal that first-time infection of the mother is the most important factor for the transmission of genital herpes from mother to fetus/newborn. Interventions based on these findings will lead to new management of the pregnant patient with genital herpes prior to pregnancy and measures to prevent the acquisition of herpes during pregnancy.

Recent findings Risk factors for the transmission of herpes from mother to newborn have been detailed. It is the pregnant woman who acquires genital herpes as a primary infection in the latter half of pregnancy, rather than prior to pregnancy, who is at greatest risk of transmitting this virus to her newborn. This is true for both herpes simplex virus type-1 and herpes simplex virus type-2. Additional risk factors for neonatal herpes simplex virus infection include the use of a fetal-scalp electrode and maternal age of less than 21 years.

Summary Risk factors for the transmission of herpes from mother to newborn are detailed. Antiviral suppressive therapy initiated in the late third trimester has been shown to decrease viral shedding and the need for cesarean section.

Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, New York, USA

Correspondence to David A. Baker, MD, Professor and Director, Division of Infectious Diseases, of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine, Health Sciences Center. Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8091, USA Tel: +1 631 444 2729; fax: +1 631 444 3944; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.