C-Section Lowers Herpes Risk for Newborns
January 8, 2003
In a new study, researchers found that the longtime practice of performing a cesarean section in women who have active herpes infections does indeed reduce the risk that their newborns will be infected with the virus. The bottom line of the research, said lead investigator Dr. Zane A. Brown, "is that we have to prevent women from acquiring genital herpes during pregnancy to prevent the newborn from acquiring neonatal herpes." Doctors should use a blood test to screen pregnant women for genital herpes the first time they seek prenatal care, according to Brown, who is at the University of Washington-Seattle. The report, "Effect of Serologic Status and Cesarean Delivery on Transmission Rates of Herpes Simplex Virus from Mother to Infant," was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2003;289:203-209).Adapted from:
The study reported on 202 pregnant women who were infected with herpes simplex virus at the time of delivery. Only about 1 percent of women who had a C-section gave birth to a child with HSV, compared with nearly 8 percent who delivered vaginally.
Brown's team identified several other factors that affected the transmission of HSV. Women who had been recently infected were most likely to pass on the infection during birth. This risk, according to the report, reflects the fact that these women's infants lacked antibodies of their own to ward off HSV.
HSV-1 usually infects the mouth; HSV-2 usually causes sores on the genitals. The study found that women who had been previously infected with HSV-2 had a very low or nonexistent risk of passing on either HSV-1 or HSV-2 during birth. A woman's care during labor also seemed to have a large impact on the risk of spreading HSV, according to the report. Infants whose mothers had undergone invasive monitoring tests as they prepared to give birth were more likely to be born with HSV.
HSV is not generally life-threatening in adults. However, when a child becomes infected, often after exposure to genital secretions during birth, the infection can be deadly if not treated. HSV infection can cause brain damage in children who survive.
01.07.03; Merritt McKinney
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.