HSV 2 is the virus that causes genital herpes and infection is for life. A diagnosis of herpes can be devastating and is life altering.
Pain is both emotional and physical with herpes. Wondering how it will affect your sex life, relationship, health and future is completely normal after being infected with HSV 2.
Because HSV 2 is a virus, there is no cure. Focus turns to treatment options to manage symptoms (episodic) and control outbreaks (suppressive). Episodic treatment consists of treatment and comfort measures taken at the first sign of a Herpes outbreak. The goal of episodic treatment is to hopefully shorten the duration of the outbreak and help control the symptoms that accompany an outbreak. Suppressive treatment is taken daily. The goal of suppressive treatment is to prevent outbreaks from occurring at all. Treatment is in the form of antiviral medication and is taken orally or topically.
When contemplating all of the life issues associated with HSV 2 infection, many women pay particular attention to issues related to HSV 2 infection and pregnancy. Fear that the virus will be transmitted to a fetus can be overwhelming. Women who are pregnant and infected with HSV 2 have a higher rate of miscarriage, inhibited fetal growth and premature labor. HSV 2 infection in newborns can be life threatening, cause meningitis, skin infections, seizures, developmental disability and infection in the bloodstream. It can even be fatal. Risk to a fetus is especially great if the woman is experiencing her first herpes outbreak during her pregnancy. Reasons for this include the first outbreak historically lasting longer than subsequent outbreaks which results in viral shedding lasting much longer and a lower amount of antibodies are transferred from mother to fetus during a primary outbreak. Women who are infected with HSV 2 usually deliver by C-Section to help avoid transmission to the fetus during delivery.
However, attention also needs to be paid to treatment during pregnancy that helps reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus in utero. Valtrex is an antiviral, oral medication used as a suppressive treatment for HSV 2 infection. Pregnant women with HSV 2 infection who take Valtrex has been shown to reduce the rate of HSV 2 transmission to fetuses during pregnancy. However, Valtrex is considered a Class B drug which means while no harmful effects were found to fetuses in animal studies, there have been no conclusive studies performed in humans. Basically the research shows that women on Valtrex have no more babies born with birth defects than women who are not taking Valtrex during pregnancy. Therefore, it is recommended that women who are pregnant and infected with HSV 2 discuss the best option for reduced transmission rate with their physician. Discussion with a health care provider can help the woman evaluate the pros and cons, risks and benefits of taking Valtrex during her pregnancy.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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