Caesarean Section Said to Cut Herpes Risk; Study Finds Surgical Delivery Protects against Neonatal Transmission of Virus

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Caesarean Section Said to Cut Herpes Risk; Study Finds Surgical Delivery Protects against Neonatal Transmission of Virus


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Having a Caesarean delivery is likely to prevent a pregnant woman with herpes from passing it to her baby, according to a study reported today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) can be deadly to infants. It also can cause blindness, seizures and mental retardation.

The study found that in 10 cases where mothers transmitted herpes to their babies, nine were delivered vaginally and one was delivered by Caesarean, or surgical, procedure.

Until now, there hasn't been any data on whether Caesarean deliveries reduce herpes transmissions.

"Some obstetrical authorities have discussed abandoning this practice," said Dr. Zane A. Brown, lead researcher of the study.

"Perhaps the most clinically important observation from our study was the finding that Caesarean delivery protects against neonatal transmission of HSV," he said. "Our data indicate that it is a rational intervention and should not be abandoned."

Neonatal herpes is rare in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates there may be one case in as few as every 3,000 live births and in as many as 20,000 live births.

These numbers are considered low because tens of millions of people carry the herpes virus, either as HSV-1, the "cold sore" variety, or HSV-2, which causes sores in the genital area.

Both kinds of HSV can be transmitted to a partner during sexual activity. …

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