Herpes is a highly contagious infection that can be spread through skin contact. All unprotected sexual acts and some skin contacts like kissing or touching also increase a risk of contracting the virus. Thus, it’s assumed that women who have herpes shouldn’t breastfeed because their babies can be affected. However, others think that it’s still safe to breastfeed as long as you follow doctor’s instructions. Let’s take a look at herpes and whether or not breastfeeding is safe for a baby.
The potential problem
It’s estimated that nearly 80 million Americans have some form of herpes. While the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) causes cold sores, the HSV2 is responsible for genital herpes. Both can be spread during skin contact, so many people in the world get the virus. It may affect all people, especially children and those are sexual active. In addition, it causes serious complications in newborns because their immune system are weak.
While the virus commonly affects your mouth or lips and genitals, it also infects various parts of the body such as face or breast- though it’s uncommon. Due to a highly contagious infection, HSV can be passed through physical contact with an infected person. For example, you may get herpes when performing vaginal or oral sex with an infected person. In the event of herpes on the breast, the skin of the breast must come into contact with the infected skin of a person with herpes. It should be noticed that the virus can also be spread to someone even when you have no symptoms or visible fever blisters. That’s why many people don’t know they’ve had the virus and women with herpes should be careful while having a newborn.
Is breastfeeding safe if women have herpes?
If you have herpes blisters or sores on the breast, you shouldn’t breastfeed. This may put your newborn at a high risk of contracting the virus. While the immune system of your newborn is weak, catching the virus is very dangerous. However, you can pump milk from your breast. As long as the parts of the breast pump aren’t affected with herpes sores, breastfeeding is okay.
In cases you have herpes on other parts of the body such as mouth or genitals, it’s safe for breastfeeding. It’s because the virus can’t pass through your body to your milk. But, it’s important to observe the following precautions, including:
- Prevent your baby from touching herpes sores
As the virus can be spread easily through physical contact, you shouldn’t let your newborn touch the sores. Unluckily, some women and adult people have bad routines- kissing their babies. If they’re experiencing fever blisters, their newborns have a high risk of acquiring the virus.
- Pay close attention to hygiene
You should practice good hygiene to prevent the virus from spreading to another part of the body. Remember to wash your hands with soap before breastfeeding and sterilize breast bump parts after using.
- Ask for help
Herpes is more dangerous for a newborn in three weeks of ages. So, if you contract it and suppose it’s serious for your baby, should talk to your healthcare provider. She may help you to treat.
- Seek proper treatment
To protect your baby’s health, it’s important to treat herpes as soon as possible. Many people with herpes can take Acyclovir or apply ProsurX to treat and prevent cold sores. However, breastfeeding women should be careful. Because the medication can pass into the breast milk, talk to your doctor about your condition to have specific treatment.
How can herpes affect your baby’s health?
Herpes is really dangerous for a baby’s health. If left untreated, the virus attacks many organs causing coma or death. After infected herpes, your newborn may have some health problems, such as:
- Brain infection. When the virus spreads to the brain, it may be deadly. In addition, your newborn may develop lasting disabilities like seizures, vision and hearing loss.
- Intellectual disabilities
- Eye disease
- Organ damage, including the lungs, heart and liver
- Skin and mouth infection
Related: Can You Die if You Have Herpes?
How to keep your baby safe from herpes
Because the immune system of a newborn is weak and the virus is spread easily, you should keep your newborn safe from it. Here’re tips to help you protect your baby:
- Talk to your health care provider. If you have genital herpes while pregnancy, your provider will check your condition and treat it before giving birth. If necessary, you must have a cesarean birth to prevent spreading herpes to your baby. In case you have outbreak during breastfeeding, your provider will observe and give suitable treatment to treat the virus.
- Keep your baby away from herpes
- Don’t kiss your baby when you’re developing cold sores
- Stop breastfeeding if you have herpes sores on your breast nipples or around the nipples
- Don’t feed your baby pumped breast milk from the infected breast
Herpes is dangerous for people who have weakened immune system like children or adult people. Women who conreact the virus should be careful while breastfeeding. It’s safe if herpes sores aren’t on the nipples or on the breast. However, you should take precautions to prevent your baby from catching the virus.
Related: Prevent Cold Sores From Coming Back