Cold sores can be very painful. If you have had cold sores once, you are most likely to get it again. This is because the virus does not leave your body. When you are stressed out or experience any type of hormonal change, cold sores make their appearance. Pregnancy involves both stress and hormonal change, so it is safe to assume you are bound to get a few cold sores during these nine months. So, what happens when you experience cold sores in pregnancy?
What is a Cold Sore?
Sometimes known as “fever blisters”, cold sores form in a small group around the mouth and on the lip. The area around will become swollen, sore, and red. These blisters might break open, causing the leakage of translucent fluid. It will then start the healing process after a few days. A scab will form and the blisters will begin to recede, healing completely after around two weeks.
What Causes Cold Sores When Pregnant?
The Herpes Simplex virus (HSV) is what causes cold sores. Both mouth, lip and genital cold sores are caused by it. Though there are two strains of HSV, HSV 1 and HSV 2, both are responsible for causing all forms of Herpes.
The virus enters the body when there is an open wound in or around the mouth. When a person shares utensils or drinks from the same water bottle as someone with a cold sore, the virus can be transferred. Kissing can also spread the virus. The virus does not just stay around the mouth, but also passes to other places on the body.
You have more chance of developing cold sore during early pregnancy as your hormones will change to prepare for your baby to grow.
Signs and Symptoms of Cold Sores
While some people do not show any symptoms, others have obvious signs of the cold sore. Here are the signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect you may be developing a cold sore:
- Painful sensation around the mouth or on the lips; sometimes both.
- Sore throat
- Swollen neck glands or other body parts
- During the blister stage, there will mostly be a clear liquid that leaks out
- Scabs will form over the sore after a few days
Effects of Cold Sores on Foetal Development
A major worry for any mother who has a virus or disease is whether or not it will harm her baby. Here is what you need to know about how Cold Sores can affect your little one:
- Often, getting a cold sore while pregnant won’t harm your baby. As the HSV virus is only around your mouth, it doesn’t cross over into the placenta and make its way to your growing baby. This is because it is a localised infection.
- If you have contracted the herpes virus for the first time in your last trimester, it could be a problem. Your body has not yet developed any antibodies for protection as yet so it will be unequipped to handle the situation well. Though oral HSV does not put your baby at risk, if the oral HSV gets transferred to your genitals, it could be a problem for your baby.
- Genital herpes is said to be more dangerous to your baby. This is because babies pass through the birth canal and contract the virus.
Diagnosis of Cold Sores
Though you may think that to get a proper diagnosis to tell if you have cold sores or not, cold sores are quite easy to diagnose. Your doctor will:
- Question you to know if you came into contact with the virus.
- A physical examination.
You will not need any other type of test.
Treatment of Cold Sores While Pregnant
While HSV cannot be cured, there are ways to help the healing to occur faster and ways to manage the pain. Once in your body, HSV will remain for the rest of your life. Here are some treatment options for you to consider:
- If you can manage it, you should just leave it be. Cold sores will heal within two weeks. However, if you feel like the pain is too much, or if you are simply embarrassed about them, you can seek treatment to help with healing
- Oral medications that include antiviral medications. These are only available with a prescription. These must be taken when you feel the onset of cold sores. Once they develop, the medication will not have much effect.
- Daily antiviral medication can also be taken for those who have outbreaks regularly. These will help to prevent outbreaks.
- Those whose immune systems are weak may need a higher dosage of medicines so that outbreaks can be prevented or the symptoms controlled.
- Ointments or creams that are to be applied topically. Some need prescriptions, but others can be bought over the counter. These often reduce the symptoms of itching, pain and time taken to heal.
Preventing Cold Sores During Pregnancy
If you already have the virus, preventing cold sores completely may not be the easiest task. Since pregnancy involves many hormonal changes as well as some stress, it becomes even harder than usual. Here are some simple and useful tips on how you can prevent the occurrence of cold sores.
- If you have never had this virus before, be sure to prevent any contact with the body fluids of those who are infected. This means no sharing cutlery, no sipping from someone else’s drink, no sharing lip balms, and others.
- Do not kiss anyone who has the virus.
- Take care of your health so that you have less chance of developing a cold or getting the flu. These can also trigger cold sores.
- Avoid stressful activities as stress is another trigger for cold sores. Though it may be difficult to avoid completely during pregnancy, you can always aim to reduce it.
- Protect your face from the sun. Excess sunlight can cause flare-ups of cold sores. Use sunscreen and lip balm.
- Do not share a razor with anyone.
- Keep your hands clean, washing them often, and do not touch your face or sores. This way, the virus does not spread to others, or to your eyes and genitals.
- Ensure to speak to your doctor about any medication that you can take daily that will help in preventing an outbreak.
If you have already contracted HSV before and are expecting an outbreak of cold sores during pregnancy, first trimester is likely when it will happen. Speak to your doctor about which is the best way that you can handle the situation. As long as you follow your doctor’s advice, you should be able to get through your pregnancy without having a major outbreak.