What It’s like Being a Mom Living with Herpes
I didn’t know if I wanted to have kids but one of the first questions I asked my doctor when I was diagnosed with herpes was, “can I still have a baby”?
Becoming a parent is such a gift and whether or not we know we want to become parents, to have the option or choice taken from you feels gut wrenching. That was exactly how I felt while I was waiting for my doctor to answer.
Some of the things I want to cover are: pregnancy and delivery, fears, precautions and how we handle it day to day.
Let’s cover some of the pregnancy and delivery concerns first.
Having herpes is not a concern in utero. So while the baby is cooking you have zero risk of transmitting herpes. This is awesome and relieving news.
The concern that arises is contact during delivery. Herpes is a skin to skin transmission so the baby can come into contact with the infected area during delivery. The concerns are getting herpes in the baby’s eyes which can cause the baby to go blind, and of course normal transmission which is considered neonatal herpes. The younger the baby the more difficult the risks are for harmful effects however, neonatal herpes is very rare, it’s about 1 in 5000 to 1 in 7500 live births. (source)
So before we start freaking out about this, here’s what I want you to do. Firstly, talk to your OBGYN! Your doctor is your advocate and you and your doctor can put a plan together that works for both of you for your delivery. Personally, I delivered vaginally and was okay with the risks. At about 35 weeks my doctor put me on 500mg of valacyclovir daily to prevent the outbreaks. If there was no outbreak at the time my doctor told me I had a less than 1% chance of transmitting herpes to Clinton. My husband and I were okay with that risk so we had a vaginal delivery. But back to you on this, talk to your doctor and see what you and your partner feel comfortable with.
Being a mommy to your child
Some of the fears we have are what if I give my child herpes. I get it! It’s a fear and it’s real. We put such a heavy burden on ourselves that we would potentially be bad parents if we gave our child herpes. When Clinton was about 6 months old I got my 3rd ever cold sore outbreak. At this point I had had oral herpes for 18 years so I was stunned to get my 3rd outbreak. I didn’t see if coming on and didn’t even feel it. We were at the beach with some friends and went back to their place to wash the sand off of Clinton and have dinner. So I bathed him and then got him ready for bed in his pyjamas. As his mommy I kiss him and love him so as I was zipping up his pyjamas I was kissing his tummy. I still at this point had not clue that I had an outbreak. So I got him zipped and then handed him off to his dad so I could get out of my sandy suit, retouch my lipstick and join the party. I looked in the mirror with my lip liner in hand and saw the blisters starting to appear. I about dropped the liner, I turned white as a ghost and began to freak out. We were at a friends house so I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t lose it! I tried to bear and grin it but eventually I told my husband that we have to go. On the car ride home I was so scared, upset, mad, and felt like I didn't deserve to be Clinton’s mom. All of the fears of what if I gave it to him poured in. All the same emotions that happen when you’re first diagnosed showed up but they were even heavier. This was my child. We got home and I couldn’t even look at Clinton, it was like I’d failed him as a mother and he deserved someone better. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts nor ever been destructive to myself but I wanted to that night. I wanted to physically feel the pain because I believed that I had caused my son pain.
Let’s fast forward. I calmed down and got myself together. My son did not get herpes. Phew! But I learned a few things from that which brings us to our fears. We have so many fears as parents. Our hearts are no longer inside our bodies, our heart is literally walking around and can get hurt at any point. The fear of giving my son herpes is real. I’m not going to lie. But I believe that there are bigger fears out there than giving him herpes.
There are precautions I take and I’ll get to that in a minute but here’s my take on giving herpes to your child. Herpes is something that is so common, 2 out of 3 people have HSV1 and 1 out of 6 have HSV2. Me protecting myself from giving Clinton herpes will not protect him in his future. There are 7 people who are in his life daily - out of the seven, 5 of us have oral HSV1. So that means he could pick up a glass of water from someone, kiss someone, take a bite of their food and so on and potentially get herpes. Then let’s expand from our little circle and start thinking about when he goes to school and then when he’s on team sports and when he’s in collage etc. Herpes is out there and he will be exposed to it all the time!
So yes, I kiss my son. I hug my son. I take baths with my son. I share drinks with my son. I share food with my son. I personally feel that by not kissing him and showing my love and affection it will damage him more in the the long term than by me accidentally giving him herpes. Not showing him love and being afraid to be affectionate will have a ripple effect that can be damaging. So just picture this: that I don’t show him affection with fear that I’ll give him herpes to then have him share a Gatorade with his teammates in high-school to get herpes? That doesn’t sound right.
With all this said, yes there is a chance I can give Clinton herpes. I don’t share with him, kiss him etc when I have a outbreak. These are my choices and I’m okay with it. This is a choice you need to make as a parent. What do you feel comfortable with and what do you not feel comfortable with. If you have more questions I encourage you to talk to your doctor and get more clarification.
Let me know you’re thoughts and concerns on this. I know it’s a tender one. I have a 12 page PDF that talks about what I wish I’d know before I was diagnosed with herpes. It’s free. There’s a ton of information in there that’s helpful when dealing with herpes and wanting to understand the virus. I recommend you download it and check it out. Subscribe below ⬇️⬇️⬇️