Cold Sores During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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cold sores during pregnancy
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Cold sores are mostly very painful. Even if you have it once, there are high chances that you have it again, for, the virus does not leave the body. Cold sores reappear when you are stressed out or when the body goes through hormonal changes. As pregnancy involves both stress and hormonal changes, cold sores are bound to appear during the 9-month gestation period. 

Here’s everything you need to know about cold sores. 

What are cold sores?

Popularly known as ‘fever blisters’, cold sores appear in small groups around the mouth and lips of a woman. The affected area swells, sores and turns red. Sometimes, these blisters break open, leaking translucent fluid or pus. It eventually heals in a few days. As the healing process begins, a scab will form on the broken blisters and it soon begins to recede, healing completely in about a week or two.

Is it common to get cold sores during pregnancy?

Yes, cold sores appear frequently during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. 

What causes cold sores during pregnancy?

The Herpes Simplex Virus or, HSV is responsible for causing cold sores. Cold sores can appear around the mouth, lips and genitals. HSV can be classified into two prominent types, HSV1 and HSV2. 

The virus enters the body through open wounds in or around the mouth. HSV is transferrable, hence, when an affected person shares utensils, glasses or water bottles, the virus is transferred from one person to the other. Mouth to mouth contact or contact with any open wounds can also transfer the virus. The virus is not localized. It tends to spread across the body.

Cold sores are frequent during pregnancies because at this time the body goes through hormonal changes for the development of the foetus. It is especially common during the early stages of pregnancy

cold sores during pregnancy

What are the signs and symptoms of cold sores?

While some people are asymptomatic and do not show any prior signs or symptoms, there are a few very obvious signs and symptoms of cold sores during pregnancies. Here are a few basic symptoms you should look out for if you think you are developing a cold sore:

  • Painful sensation around the mouth, lips or genitals. You might feel the pain at more than one part of your body at a given point.
  • Fever
  • Sore Throats
  • Swollen neck glands and/or any other body parts
  • Secretion of clear liquid or pun from pimples
  • Formation of scabs over the sore after a few days

Are there any effects of cold sores on the foetus?

Pregnant women often fear if the cold sores might have a severe impact on the development of the foetus. Here are a few clarifications on if your unborn baby might be affected by these cold sores:

Catching a cold, while carrying a baby is mostly not harmful. Since the HSV attacks the regions around the mouth, it is unlikely that it will cross the placenta and reach the foetus. This is because cold sores are mostly localized infections.

However, contracting the Herpes Virus during the last trimester might be harmful to the baby. At this stage in pregnancy, the body has not yet developed antibodies for the protection of the child, thus, the yet unborn are unequipped to fight the virus well. Although oral HSV does not affect the baby, cold sores around the vagina might put the health of the baby at risk. 

HSV around the genitals is more harmful, for the baby contracts it while passing through the vagina during birth.

cold sores during pregnancy

When do you diagnose a cold sore?

Cold sores can be easily diagnosed at home and it is quite easy to spot it. However, if you do not wish to take the risk, you might consult your Obstetrics-gynecologist. The doctor usually interrogates the origin of the virus and tests if it is present in your body or not. Furthermore, you can go through a thorough physical examination if you wish to. 

How to get rid of cold sores during pregnancy?

The Herpes Virus cannot be cured, but it can be healed faster once it begins to appear. Once you contract HSV, it remains in your body forever. However, here are a few easy ways to get rid of cold sores during pregnancies:

  • The sore should be just left alone and should not be disturbed or triggered. If the pain becomes unbearable or if you wish to get rid of them faster, consult your doctor.
  • Oral antiviral medications are helpful for faster healing of the sores. These medicines are only available with a prescription and must be taken during the onset of the bristles. However, once they are fully developed, the medicines will not have any impact on the virus.
  • Those who have these HSV outbreaks regularly should consume anti-viral medicines regularly. This prevents HSV outbreaks.
  • Dermatologically prescribed ointments help the sores to heal faster. These ointments and creams often reduce the pain and itching that predominantly happens with the onset of the cold sores.
  • Women with a weaker immune system must consult the OB-GYN before conception to prevent the outbreak of the cold sores during pregnancy. 
  • Prevention of Cold Sores During Pregnancy
  • HSV cannot be cured once it enters the body. However, that does not imply that you will have it just because the virus is in the body. Preventing cold sores during pregnancy is not the easiest task, for during this period the body is more prone to develop it due to increased stress and hormonal changes. Still, here are a few tips to prevent cold sores:
  • Avoid sharing utensils, cutleries, lip balms or lip-sticks of other people.
  • Avoid kissing anyone who has contracted the virus.
  • Colds and flu can trigger cold sores. Creating a healthy immune system helps in preventing cold sores.
  • Avoid sharing blades and razors with other people.
  • Cleanliness is key. Keep your hands and face clean at all times.

Home remedies for cold sores during pregnancy

There is no proven evidence that cold sores can be treated by natural or home care remedies. However, to reduce the discomfort and pain, you can use certain home remedies to treat cold sores:

  • Pure honey
  • Lemon balms
  • Peppermint oil
  • Liquorice root (for it contains glycyrrhizic acid)
  • Milk compresses
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sage and rhubarb
  • Aloe vera gel