HSV: what you need to know to care for your pregnant patient

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2007 Nov-Dec;32(6):345-50; quiz 351-2. doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000298128.09290.bb.


The purpose of this article is to provide nurses with information about herpes simplex virus (HSV): its transmission and diagnosis, and the recommended management during pregnancy and birth. Genital herpes is one of the three most common, chronic sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Diagnosis of HSV infection is challenging, because obtaining cultures of lesions can be difficult and delays occur before accurate results are available. Serological testing can determine whether a person has had the infection, but antibodies are not present in sufficient quantities for about 6 to 12 weeks after exposure, leaving a large window of time for false-negative results. Pregnant women who have genital herpes present a complex management situation because fetal exposure to the virus during the birth process can lead to neonatal infection and high morbidity and mortality rates. Appropriate physical, psychological, and educational management of seropositive and/or symptomatic women during pregnancy, coupled with prompt diagnosis and treatment of infected newborns, offers the best hope for positive outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Herpes Simplex / nursing*
  • Herpes Simplex / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Midwifery / methods*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Assessment / methods
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / nursing*
  • Prenatal Care / methods*