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There is also a small risk of transmission from asymptomatic shedding (when the virus reactivates without causing any symptoms).
To put this in greater perspective, an estimated 20-25% of pregnant women have genital herpes, while less than 0.1% of babies contract an infection.
The risk is also high if she has prior infection with HSV-1 but not HSV-2.
While acquisition of herpes in the last few weeks of pregnancy is rare, it may account for almost half of all cases of neonatal herpes.
Herpes antibodies in the mother's blood cross the placenta to the fetus.
These antibodies help protect the baby from acquiring infection during birth, even if there is some virus in the birth canal.