Genital Herpes Complicating Pregnancy

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Abstract

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Approximately 22% of pregnant women are infected with herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2, and 2% of women will acquire HSV during pregnancy. Remarkably, up to 90% of these women are undiagnosed because they are asymptomatic or have subtle symptoms attributed to other vulvovaginal disorders. Diagnosis of genital herpes relies on laboratory confirmation with culture or polymerase chain reaction assay of genital lesions and type-specific glycoprotein G–based serologic testing. Neonatal herpes is the most severe complication of genital HSV infection and is caused by contact with infected genital secretions at the time of labor. Maternal acquisition of HSV in the third trimester of pregnancy carries the highest risk of neonatal transmission. Despite advances in the diagnosis and treatment of neonatal herpes, little change in the incidence or serious sequelae from this infection has occurred. As such, prevention of the initial neonatal infection is critically important. Obstetricians are in a unique position to prevent vertical HSV transmission by identifying women with genital lesions at the time of labor for cesarean delivery, prescribing antiviral suppressive therapy as appropriate, and avoiding unnecessary invasive intrapartum procedures in women with genital herpes. Enhanced prevention strategies include identification of women at risk for HSV acquisition during pregnancy by testing women and possibly their partners for HSV antibodies and providing counseling to prevent transmission to women in late pregnancy.

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