When it comes to herpes treatment, acyclovir is considered a reliable antiviral drug to contain the spread of the herpes virus. However, the drug cannot, or should not, be used when pregnant, unless the benefits far outweigh the side effects.
Infection by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a lifelong problem. While oral herpes and genital herpes are equally serious, the latter is considered more troublesome. Genital herpes is rarely symptomatic, and the risks of spreading infections between sexual partners, and from mother to baby are very high. And the worst part is, there is no cure for it. Hence, being diagnosed with genital herpes during pregnancy is a subject to worry about for expecting mothers. With proper precautions and treatment options, spread of HSV to baby can be prevented effectually.
Herpes and Pregnancy
As per medical studies, 20 to 25 out of 100 pregnant women are infected with genital herpes. Of these, less than one percent women have poor pregnancy outcomes and complications due to herpes infection. An approximately 80 percent of women who have been infected with HSV report recurrent outbreaks of genital sores at the time of pregnancy. The transmission rate of herpes virus from pregnant women to their baby depends upon the pregnancy stage when sore eruption occurs. A woman diagnosed with genital herpes can definitely have normal vaginal delivery with a careful treatment approach.
What is Acyclovir Used for?
Acyclovir is one of the oldest known antiviral drugs, appreciated for its effectiveness against viruses of the herpes family (herpesviridae) and relatively low side effects. It is available in tablets of different concentrations (200mg to 1 g), topical creams (5 percent strength), and injections (concentration of 25 mg/ml). Also spelled as aciclovir and chemically known as acycloguanosine, it is prescribed for treatment of infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and varicella zoster virus (VZV). If required, acyclovir is prescribed for treating genital herpes in pregnant women.
Is Acyclovir Safe during Pregnancy?
Women who contract herpes late in their pregnancy, and those experiencing primary outbreaks at the time of delivery, are at a greater risk of passing the herpes virus to their baby. In such cases, babies born via vaginal delivery have 50% chances of contracting herpes. In a few instances, newborns have congenital herpes, or they get infected while in the womb. During pregnancy, this antiviral drug may be given to expecting women, who are in their third trimester. The objective is the keep a control over eruption of genital sores at or near delivery time.
In medical science, the uses and safety of acyclovir in pregnancy has been a much debated topic. As far as administration of acyclovir and pregnancy herpes treatment are concerned, the antiviral pills and injections are not approved by the FDA for pregnant women. They are listed under FDA pregnancy category B, signifying that acyclovir can lead to adverse reactions. The same health concern exists for topical acyclovir and pregnancy herpes treatment. Upon researching, it was found that acyclovir can bind to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This antiviral drug is therefore a mutagenic agent for chromosomes.
If the benefits are more than the probable side-effects, only then acyclovir is recommended to treat herpes during pregnancy. To be more precise, acyclovir (in form of pills, topical creams and injections) is recommended for genital herpes treatment after comparing the benefits provided and side effects that it poses on expecting mother and unborn baby. Till date, there is no medical report that states major complications of using this antiviral drug in pregnant women and the baby. However, to be on the safer side, one should take it only under strict medical supervision.
By any chance, if a newborn has contracted herpes simplex virus from the mother, the consequences are mostly serious. The symptoms of herpes infection may range from mild skin rashes to sores in the eyes, mouth and other areas of the body. In some babies, infection spreads to the brain and central nervous system, resulting in severe complications. If symptoms of herpes infection are confirmed, acyclovir is given via intravenous injections for treatment without delay. The duration of antiviral therapy lasts for 10 days to as long as 3 weeks, depending upon the severity of infection.