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Herpes...I'm the last person to know the effects?!

(44 Posts)
slowontheuptake Tue 13-Apr-10 21:36:34

I've name changed as I feel so awkward about this. Sorry in tmi.

I've never had reason to look up the side effects of herpes but I've just read another thread which prompted me to fin out more...and now I'm REALLY worried.

When I first met my husband I caught herpes, we were young and didn't know the implications of coldsores/ oral sex. I went to the GP and they told me I had herpes. Was given anti-virals, it took AGES to go away but it hasn't come back since so to be honest I've pretty much forgotten the experience until now. I was so embarrassed about it all at the time I think I denied it a bit and saw myself as dirty so never read up on it (nor was I given info). Obviously I've grown up a lot now and I see at as one of those things, rather than shameful, but as it's never flared up again I've never put much thought into it.

However, I've now read that a mother having herpes can pass it on to her unborn child and I feel sick. I'm 35 weeks. Do I ring midwife/ GP straight away? Wait until the next apppointment (next week)? I'm terrified as to what the implications will be. I'm also upset that if it can be such a serious issue that new mothers are asked at booking in if they've ever been treated for an STD. I mean it's awkward, but just as important as HIV testing etc so the need outweighs the potential offence caused. I also wish that at the time of diagnosis that I'd had more advice, rather than a fob off and dirty look. It was the treatment I received at the clinic that made me feel so ashamed in the first place. I was there with my husband and was asked all sorts of questions relating to sex work etc. (which I understand why) that were met with raised eyebows/ funny looks. They treated me with real disdain and I've tried to block the experience out since. Thet even sent a letter about a follow up check inc. diagnosis to my parents house, despite me asking them NOT to write to this address as I had the same intial and surname combination as my mother and we frequently opened each others post by mistake. Looking my strict catholic parents in the eye was hard for a LONG time after that (unnecessary) letter)

I don't know what to say really, and I can't believe that as an educated older woman I've managed to miss this completely.

This has been a bit of an outpouring, can you tell I've bottled up the feelings this long...

OP’s posts: |
mamaduckbone Tue 13-Apr-10 21:49:55

You poor thing - you've tied yourself up in knots about this and it's really not such a shameful thing. I suffer from coldsores and genital herpes is only the same virus in a different form - and you caught it from your husband, not through having unprotected dodgy sex with a stranger.

As far as I remember from reading up on it when pregnant, it's only dangerous if you have an active attack close to giving birth, because you can pass the virus on during childbirth, or if you catch it for the first time when pregnant because you haven't built up antibodies. If this is the case you would be given an elective caesarean to minimise the risk of passing it on. Good info here. It shouldn't be a problem for you since you've never had a recurrent attack.

It might be worth plucking up the courage to discuss it with your midwife though to set your mind at rest.

Funloving Tue 13-Apr-10 21:51:39

Hiya slowontheuptake, sorry to hear about your bad past experiences and your worries. But to try and put your mind at rest a bit, yes you should tell your midwife, but the baby is not at risk unless there are active herpetic lesions around the birth canal, so it sounds like everything will be fine. Hope that helps, x (i'm a GP)

Esme01 Tue 13-Apr-10 21:57:41

i hope you get knowlegable replies to this. I have a cold sore I get on my back - thats what doctor calls it (all same virus isn't it). I have had it come and go for bout 6 years - before my kids (3rd pregnancy). Asked doctor just yesterday about dangers of having it being pregnant (never bothered about it with other 2 preg - think I might have seen a thread on here which then made me paranoid. Hmmmmmmm.) Doctor said to me there were no issues. I did read on the internet that there is only an issue if you ahve an outbreak when they are born. If you have immunity against chicken pox your baby is alright - all the herpes virus so I think you would be alright.

You should get your own peace of mind. Just speak to the midwife - maybe you could get some advice more anonymously from NHS direct or somewhere. I always find though that if you focus on the fact you are doing it for your baby it helps to overcome some of the embarassment/fear.... Good luck.

slowontheuptake Tue 13-Apr-10 22:01:17

Thank You, I'm calming down a bit now and reading more. This post was the first fush of intial panic. If anyone has personal experience of herpes and pregnancy or more knowledge PLEASE share with me. It's felt like my world suddenly got turned around...

OP’s posts: |
louisesh Tue 13-Apr-10 22:16:19

Hi slowontheuptake please ring your local gum clinic they should give you any advice and treat you with understanding and sympathy and be able to answer any of your worries[ i m a specialist sister at a gum clinic]

You only need anti-virvals if you have an outbreak in pg to suppress the virus,You have nothing to be embarrassed about or feel ashamed of.Good luck X

slowontheuptake Tue 13-Apr-10 22:18:13

Louish-the local GUM clinic is where I was treated so badly. I will not enter there again (but I will see GP). Honestly I think I'd cry if I went in there again.

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Mooncupflowethover Tue 13-Apr-10 22:19:19

Hi slowontheuptake. I feel like a bit of a crusader on herpes! I'll give you a bit of my background...

I caught herpes from an ex who kindly 'forgot' to mention that he had it. I remember realising that something was amiss with my nether regions so I got myself off to the Doc's who told me to get myself to a GUM clinic.

They took swabs etc, but diagnosed it there and then. To say I was devastated is an understatement. As far as I was aware herpes was a hideously shameful sexually transmitted disease, I felt that no-one would ever touch me again.

12 years down the line I look back on that time with real sadness. I know now that more than half the population are carriers of the herpes virus, most unknowingly. Most of these never actually develop herpes (ie, blisters etc).

Herpes is a coldsore. Whether it be on your face or on your vagina, it's still a coldsore.

I don't see many people with facial coldsore's thinking they're carrying a shameful secret, but it's the same as the one's on your vagina.

With my next relationship (DH), I told him I got coldsore's 'down there'. He just shrugged and said 'ouch'. I told him that before we slept together so that he was informed and couldn't say 'Well you never told me'. It's amazing when you leave the term 'herpes' out of the equation how differently people react.

It really bugs me, can you tell grin.

Anyway, I'm going seriously off topic, sorry for the hijack rant!!

I'm guessing that you've probably read my post on requesting a CS.

I'm a born worrier, and a natural pessimist unfortunatelysad...I had mentioned the fact that I had herpes to various medical professionals, and they basically said that it was a concern mainly if I'd never had an outbreak before, and had caught it whilst I was pregnant. This wasn't the case for me, I'd caught it years ago, but I was still utterly paranoid about it.

My advice would be to sit down and discuss it with your midwife (remember, it's only a coldsore!!No big deal) and tell her what you've heard and that you have concerns. I'm sure you will be reassured.

I'm glad you've unbottled smile, and I hope you feel better about things and reassured. Please do speak to your midwife.

itwasntme Tue 13-Apr-10 22:25:29

Hi, I'm another unlucky one who caught herpes from a partner with a cold sore. And I feel your pain.

Like other posters said, the only danger is if the baby catches herpes from contact from a lesion during the actual birth.

During both of my pregnancies I had outbreaks, and I was terrified of having an outbreak when I went into labour, but was fine both times.

Don't worry! Enjoy your pregnancy - the risk to your baby is tiny, and is easily avoided.

Good luck with everything

sunshiney Tue 13-Apr-10 22:42:37

Hi I hope you feel less anxious now, I really felt for you when reading your post. Clearly you were very traumatised over your diagnosis and treatment, and felt it was coming back to haunt you at this lovely time while you wait for your baby to arrive.

I was treated for herpes about eight years ago. For some reason it's got a stigma, perhaps because even once the outbreak is cleared the virus is always in your body. Like you, I have never had another outbreak since first diagnosis. As I understand it, if it does not recur in five years it's unlikely to ever have another outbreak.
And yes i think it's only a major concern if you contract the virus during pregnancy.

I am 33 weeks pg now. I told the midwife at my booking in about the herpes, she was unconcerned.

For your own peace of mind, tell your midwife about it but I am positive there won't be any further action needed.

Herpes is very common, the people who diagnosed you were wrong to let you feel so distressed!

bibbitybobbityblue Tue 13-Apr-10 22:58:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

clarabell79 Wed 14-Apr-10 00:24:09

Dear slowontheuptake,

I too was terrified for the same reasons as you . It is a very horrible and awful experience, even when you do have support. As long as you have the virus before you fall pregnant then you are fine. You need to tell your midwife as if you have an outbreak at the time of labour then they may advise taking anti-virals. However, even without the risk of transmission is very low as you pass anti-bodies to your baby before birth. Breath a sigh of relief and relax. I caught my virus from a cheater ex-bf. It traumatised me deeply and screwed up my subsequent relationships for years. But coming to terms with it has been part of the journey with my body that has led me to feel ready finally for pregnancy (10wks now - yipee!).
Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and spend the time being excited about meeting your little one very soon.

clarabell79 Wed 14-Apr-10 00:26:14

ps, I should also add that the fact that you've not had an outbreak since your first time means that you probably have a non-recurrent strain of the virus so this means that you have a very low chance of having an outbreak any time soon. grin

Athrawes Wed 14-Apr-10 08:54:37

I have had recurrent genital herpes for twenty years. Until five years ago I had recurrent outbreaks at least every six weeks. It is THE hardest and most embarrassing and humiliating thing to have to tell a prospective partner. That said, seven years with my partner now husband and I have not passed it on to him (or to previous partners) - understanding the signs and symptoms and early warning signals are the key.
About five years ago I started on acyclovir and miraculously my attacks slowed down to one or two a year. Then we decided to try and get pregnant ... so came off the acyclovir ... by some miracle we managed to get up the duff in the gap between monthly outbreaks! I have had recurrent outbreaks throughout my pregnancy but have been told that these are not a danger to the baby because they were not a primary outbreak. My main concern now us the delivery. The obstatrician (git in a bow tie) was really dismissive of my concerns and said that there was only a 1:200 risk of transmission if I had an active outbreak at the time if delivery so not to worry. Given that transmission can mean blindness, brain damage or death I was pretty upset that he was not interested in discussing how to reduce the risks. He seemed to be saying that it was my fault fir having this disease and that my child would just have to reap the consequences. Luckily I have a good midwife who understands that I really do know my body and really will know if an outbreak is on it's way. If I feel an attack coming on then she will support me in requesting, strongly, an elective caesarean. Whilst I understand that a casesrean is not an easy option it is the only way to keep my baby away from my nasty leprous nether regions.

Athrawes Wed 14-Apr-10 09:00:43

Sorry, a bit more to add!
I was told not to take acyclovir in pregnancy during the first trimester. Reasonably enough nit much drug testing is done on pregant women. But have been told that it should be ok now that I am in the third trimester - so will go back on this miraculous drug in an attempt to NOT have an outbreak at the time of delivery. Hopefully I can then have a normal delivery.

slowontheuptake Wed 14-Apr-10 09:44:45

Thank You for sharing, it feels much more normal to me now. Although I'm no longer ashamed, I've still never had another woman say to me that she has herpes too, it's a bit of a taboo I guess. It's silly really because in my group of friends it must be highly unlikely that I'm the only one.

My first time was hellish (like bibbitybobbity) and I think I lived in fear of a repeat. I had all the flu symptoms plus unfortunately the one and only kidney infection I've ever had. A blister became infected too. I saw the doctor friday who confirmed that I had urine/ kidney infection but said I had to wait until Tuesday when the GUM clinic was open to get antibiotics from them as 'it looks like there's something else too'. I was in A LOT of pain that weekend, could barely move and was only semi with it. My husband to be (first 4 weeks of relationship!) took me to A&E on Sunday as he was so worried, but still had to wait until Tuesday. TMI-My wee was so acidic that it pretty much stripped the skin! Once the GUM clinic was open I had a nightmare there too, first a three hour wait in a hot waiting room whilst in pain (I'm hard of hearing and missed my name being called the first time, very noisy room and they'd mutter your name from the door). Then I was spoken to like I was a complete idiot, the this is what will happen if you sleep around and don't use protection talk! Didn't believe me at all that I've always used protection and been VERY careful (only my second partner for gods sake) I just didn't know about the coldsore link (well embarrassing but it was the first time I'd had oral sex and I was a little naive). I was already underweight at that time and I lost a significant amount of weight, my work colleagues were shocked when I returned to work as you could see bones everywhere. I felt like I'd rather die that go through that regularly! The only upshot of it was seeing how my then boyfriend looked after me and the instant honest trust we had. He moved in permanently the following week and we were engaged within a few months. It proved I could trust me and rely on him at my lowest.

Mooncup-I've been trying to get more into your state of mind! It's daft really, if it were on my lips everyone would call it a coldsore, yet the same virus elsewhere becomes a sexually transmitted virus.

I've phoned the GPs for an appointment and (bloody amazingly) they had one free this afternoon. I'm going to go whilst I'm feeling confident and have a frank chat. I've decided on the GP option as I find him quite down to earth and normal. My midwife doesn't really listen tbh, plus she's on holiday for a few weeks. I'm that kind of person that I know if I eave it I'll lose confidence again.

I read online that there are two viruses, simplex one and two. One is normally on the lips, two downstairs. Interesting if you get one downstairs or two on the lips there are less likely to come back.

OP’s posts: |
louisesh Wed 14-Apr-10 14:56:37

Its a shame you have had a bad experience at a gum clinic.We wouldn t have treated you like that.All i can say is , as it was some time ago, hopefully, there , things/attitudes have changed.Take care

slowontheuptake Wed 14-Apr-10 18:59:47

Had a good chat with a lovely GP today who basically said not to worry given the timescale since last flare up.

Very nice guy. Also found out baby is engaged. He said to me I was having an ideal pregnancy and to enjoy it.

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Mooncupflowethover Wed 14-Apr-10 21:19:45

Hi slowontheuptake...really pleased you spoke to your GP. He sounds like he was a good source of comfort, and hopefully now you can enjoy the rest of your pregnancy.

Remember, you're not in the minority having coldsores, plenty more people have it than would like to admit! You're definitely not on your own, don't be ashamed (that's a Mooncup order!!)grin

LadyFantastic Mon 01-Nov-10 22:56:39

If your DP gave you his coldsore, would he test positive for herpes?

RoxieP Tue 02-Nov-10 11:17:49

I think there is only a risk to baby if you have active lesions at the time of the birth. Speak to your GP/midwife when you get the chance but you really should not worry unnecessarily. Oh and btw, I think you can only test for herpes by taking a swab from an active lesion - which is why they don't test for it on an asymptomatic sexual health screening.

me23 Tue 02-Nov-10 16:52:49

actually the risk is if you have a primary episode in pregnancy here is the royal college of gynae and obs guidelines:

"If you get genital herpes before you become pregnant, your immune system will provide protection to your baby when you become pregnant. Recurrent episodes of genital herpes during pregnancy do not affect the baby.

If you get genital herpes for the first time after you become pregnant, this can be more serious.

If you get genital herpes in the first 3 months of pregnancy, there is a small chance of miscarriage.
If you get genital herpes for the first time late in your pregnancy (within 6 weeks of birth), there will not be time for your immune system to provide enough protection to your baby. If you then give birth vaginally, there will be about a 4 in 10 (40%) chance of passing the virus to your baby.
If a baby catches the herpes simplex virus at birth, this is known as neonatal herpes. It can be serious but it is very rare in the UK (1–2 out of every 100,000 newborn babies).

Neonatal herpes can cause infections in the baby’s skin and eyes. It may also cause infection of the brain (herpes meningitis) and other body organs. The baby may become seriously ill or die in the first 7 days after birth. Treatment with drugs designed to treat virus infections may help prevent or reduce damage to the baby
Will I need a caesarean delivery?
Most women with genital herpes will have a normal vaginal birth.

If you were infected with genital herpes before you became pregnant, you will not need a caesarean delivery.
If you develop genital herpes for the first time in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, you will be offered a planned caesarean delivery.
If you get a recurrent episode of genital herpes at the onset of labour, you will not normally need a caesarean delivery. Your doctor or midwife will discuss this with you to help you decide how you would like your baby to be born."

ByThePowerOfGreyskull Tue 02-Nov-10 17:01:52

this thread is VERY old.

mooncupflowethover Tue 02-Nov-10 18:04:25

But still very informative and relevant, there may be someone looking for exactly the same info as Me23 has just given.

Just what IS the problem with adding to old threads? I really don't understand it.

me23 Tue 02-Nov-10 19:12:59

I'm with moon, didn't realise was old but herpes isn't going anywhere will be loads of women in the same situation. I'm a student mw and genital herpes isn't exactly rare have looked after quite a few women with it.

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