What You Should Know about Herpes and Breastfeeding

Herpes is caused by a virus knows as HSV or herpes simplex virus and is a sexually transmitted disease. There exist two kinds of herpes virus: HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus 1) and HSV-2 (herpes simplex virus 2). Although either kind of virus can cause mouth/lip or genital herpes; HSV1 usually results in herpes on the lips and mouth, often referred to as fever blisters or cold sores and HSV2 results in genital herpes. Can you breastfeed with herpes? Genital herpes is quite common STD in the USA. Once infected, the herpes virus lives in your body for your entire life. However, there are effective medicines available to treat an outbreak of herpes.

How Is Herpes Transmitted?

Herpes is transmitted through contact with a person who has herpes infection. For example-genital herpes is spread via genital-oral contact or genital-genital contact with a person infected with herpes. A herpes lesion occurs on breast if the skin of breast comes into contact with skin of an infected person.

It is imperative to keep in mind that a person may spread herpes even if there are no visible sores or blisters or other symptoms present in them.

Symptoms and signs of an infection with herpes include formation of tiny sores or blisters on the skin of the genitals, mouth, lips or the breasts or nipples or any other area of the body. The blisters are painful, small and red-rimmed. They dry to form a scab in a few days time.

Can You Breastfeed with Herpes?

If you have herpes on your body parts other than your breast, such as your mouth, lips or genitals, you can breastfeed your baby as the herpes virus cannot pass into your breast milk through your body. Do not let your baby touch the herpetic sores: As herpes virus is transmitted by just touching or contact with the blisters or sores, it becomes important that you prevent your baby from coming into direct contact with the herpes sores or lesions. You can cover your sores with a bandage and dressing to avoid the contact of your baby with them.

However, according to the guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics, if you have herpetic lesions on your breasts, you should not breast feed your child from that breast. At least, you should not breastfeed your child from the affected breast until the sores have dried and healed. You can continue breastfeeding from the other breast if no lesions are present. You should take treatment with antiviral medicines to decrease the duration of herpes lesions that are active.

The milk from the affected breast has to be expressed using a breast pump so as to prevent occurrence of mastitis or engorgement and to maintain the supply of mother’s milk. If the milk that has been expressed has not come into contact with any of the herpes sores (your hands or any of the parts of the breast pump has not come into contact with the sore), then you can give this milk to your baby. However, any milk that has come into contact with herpes sore must be discarded. You may require to give your baby formula milk during these times.

  • Maintain strict hygiene: To avoid the spread of the virus, always keep a clean cloth between any affected skin area and your baby. Always wash and clean your hands thoroughly with water and soap after coming in contact with a sore, using the washroom or before breastfeeding. Take care to sterilize parts of the breast pump after every use. Also wash or sanitize your hands and place a receiving blanket or a clean towel on the lap before you hold your baby.
  • If you have herpes lesions or sores on your mouth or lips, do not kiss your baby. Can you breastfeed with herpes? If you have a cold sore on your mouth or lip, you can still breastfeed your baby; however, you should not kiss your baby. Moreover, you should wash your hands often and maintain strict hygiene while active sore is present.

Can You Breastfeed while Taking Treatment for Herpes?

Acyclovir was initially used to combat herpes. However, treatment has been made much easier by Famvir and Valtrex in recent years. Valtrex is converted to acyclovir in the gut but its benefit is that it remains in the body for much longer duration.

According to studies acyclovir does get accumulated in breast milk; however, no problems have been found in the infants due to acyclovir. The American Academy of Pediatrics finds acyclovir a safe drug to be consumed during breastfeeding for treating outbreaks of herpes.

A study was conducted in which Valtrex 500 mg was given to five breastfeeding females two times a day for seven days. The quantity of valtrex was tested in the breast milk. The study demonstrated that Valtrex was not present in the breast milk. Hence, the researchers concluded that Valtrex can be safely consumed during breastfeeding for treating outbreaks of herpes.

However, before taking any medicine to treat herpes, make sure to discuss with your physician as they are the best guide. Though the study suggests that the medicines are safe for your infant, your physician and you should make the decision together.

Can you breastfeed with herpes? Now you have a better idea.