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Abreva and Pregnancy

author image Jordan Bucher
Jordan Bucher is a journalist in Austin, Texas who has been writing professionally since 1998. She is also an AFAA-trained group exercise instructor and a DONA-trained postpartum doula. She holds a BA in English from Carleton College and a certificate from The University of Denver Publishing Institute.
Abreva and Pregnancy
Abreva is not approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a delicate time in a woman’s life. Vigilance is required, as any drug the mother takes also affects her baby. At the same time, some women have serious pre-existing conditions that require treatment, especially during pregnancy. Women need to work closely with their doctors or midwives to determine the safest, most effective course of treatment for them throughout their pregnancies.

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About Abreva

Abreva, generic name docosanol, is a prescription topical cream used to treat cold sores resulting from the herpes simplex 1 virus. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Abreva for general use in 2000, it has yet to approve the drug for use during pregnancy.

About Herpes Simplex-1 and Pregnancy

Herpes simplex-1, whether oral or vaginal, can pose serious complications for both mother and baby. If the mother has active lesions at in the four to six weeks prior to her due date, it is likely she will have a scheduled cesarean birth to prevent transmission of the virus to her baby. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a mother is having an outbreak, and the baby contracts the virus at birth, which can result in neurological damage or death. However, if a mother has HSV-1 but does not have lesions at the time of birth, the risk to her baby is minimal.


There are three primary conventional treatments for herpes simplex 1: Abreva, Denavir and Acyclovir. A September 2001 “Archives of Dermatology” study reports that of those three, Abreva is actually the least effective. However, an August 2001 “Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology” study says Abreva is more effective than a placebo, with herpes lesions healing nearly five days faster.


A January 2004 “Antiviral Research” study reports that topically applied resveratrol, the same compound found in grapes, is more effective at treating cancer sores than Abreva. Resveratrol creams may be purchased over-the-counter, but pregnant women should speak with their doctors or midwives before deciding to pursue this alternative treatment.


Abreva is not approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy. Pregnant woman must consult with their doctors or midwives before using the drug.

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