Herpes Linked to Pregnancy Complications
Being exposed to viral infection, especially the herpes virus, may cause high blood pressure during pregnancy, premature births and cerebral palsy, a new study suggests.
Pregnancy hypertension (high blood pressure) occurs in up to 10% of first pregnancies throughout the developed world, such as in the UK, the United States and Australia. When untreated, it can lead to uncontrolled epileptic fits, sometimes leading to the death of both the baby and mother. It is a common cause of maternal death in Third World countries.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, are a major step towards unravelling the mystery of high blood pressure in pregnancy, say the researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
The research discovered viral acid in blood samples from 1326 newborn babies, taken over a 10-year period. More than 400 of these babies were diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
"This is an exciting finding and further studies are now required to look at the link between viral exposure in pregnancy and genetic susceptibility to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as high blood pressure, premature delivery and cerebral palsy," says Professor Alastair MacLennan, leader of the research group.
There are 8 types of herpes, not all of them sexually transmitted. Type 1, for example, infects your mouth, lips and nose, and causes cold sores. Type 2, known as genital herpes, is a viral infection that infects the genital and anal areas. It’s spread by sex, including oral and anal, and is the most common STD worldwide. And shockingly, around 80% of people infected with Type 2 don’t know it, as generally there are only mild symptoms or none at all.
Although painful and uncomfortable, herpes is not dangerous in itself. However, women who first become infected when they are pregnant risk miscarriages, premature births and transmitting herpes to their children. Even worse, if untreated this can cause serious damage to the baby’s internal organs, skin and nervous system, sometimes resulting in death.
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