Herpes | Causes & Risk Factors

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How is genital herpes spread?

Genital herpes is usually spread from one person to another by having sex, including oral sex, with an infected person. The virus can enter your body through a break in your skin or through the skin of your mouth, penis or vagina, urinary tract opening, cervix or anus. Herpes is most easily spread when blisters or sores can be seen on the infected person. But it can be spread at any time, even when the person who has herpes isn’t experiencing any symptoms.

Herpes can also be spread from one place on your body to another, such as from your genitals to your fingers, then to your eyes or to other parts of your body.

Can a pregnant woman pass herpes on to her unborn baby?

Yes. A pregnant woman should let her doctor know if she has genital herpes, or if she has ever had sex with someone who had it. Babies born to mothers who have an active genital herpes infection at or near the time of delivery can become infected. This can cause brain damage, blindness of even death in newborns.

The baby is usually safe in the uterus. When the baby passes through the birth canal, it may come in contact with sores and become infected with the herpes virus. If you have herpes or if you have had sex with someone who has it, your doctor may do a cesarean section (C-section) if you have an outbreak at the time you go into labor, so the baby won't have to go through the birth canal.

Source

Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infections by Caroline M. Rudnick, M.D., PH.D., and Grant S. Hoekzema, M.D. (American Family Physician March 15, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020315/1138.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 01/96

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