Breastfeeding and HerpesThere are two different Herpes Simplex strains:
- Herpes I - generally produces cold sores on the lips and mouth
- Herpes II - results in lesions around the anus, vagina, or on the penis; genital herpes lesions can also occur on the mouth and in the throat, transmitted via oral sex.
Once either strain of herpes is acquired, it is always present in the body, waiting for a time when stress or illness overwhelms the body, causing a herpes outbreak.
Herpes and PregnancySince pregnancy is considered to be an immunocompromised (weakened immune system) condition, a mother is more likely to have an episode during pregnancy. To help avoid this, a mother can concentrate on a good diet, lots of rest, and removing as much stress and conflict from her life as possible. If a breastfeeding mother has an active lesion on her breast or near her nipple, the mother would need to discontinue breastfeeding on that side until it heals because the baby may make contact with the lesion during breastfeeding.
In young babies a month old or less, herpes can have fatal consequences. This is why mothers with active genital lesions don't deliver vaginally. In babies older than 4 weeks, there are rarely complications.
The virus that causes herpes is not present in breast milk, therefore breastfeeding alone is not a transmission route for herpes.