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Understanding Herpes Simplex Virus: Transmission, Diagnosis, and Considerations in Pregnancy Management


  • Jan M. Kriebs CNM, MSN

    assistant professor, Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Jan M, Kriebs, CNM, MSN, FACNM, is Director of the Midwifery Practice and assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Maryland Medical System, Baltimore, MD.

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Maryland, 4th Floor, 405 W. Redwood, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail:


Genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections are frequently asymptomatic or undiagnosed, but more than half the US population is seropositive for HSV, and about one-fifth are positive for HSV-2. These two factors contribute to the risk for sexual transmission and therefore to the risk of late-pregnancy acquisition of HSV. Most neonatal herpes infections are the result of undiagnosed, new-onset HSV infection in the mother. This article reviews the epidemiology of HSV, risks of transmission, and testing and management of HSV during pregnancy. Options for evaluation and management are presented.