DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I married a man while I was overseas. We now live in the United States. Three months ago, I came down with a herpes infection. My husband is the only man I have ever been with. I questioned him, and he said he had been treated for a sexual infection three years ago but that they never told him what it was. I am despondent, because I so wanted to have children. What can I do? – B.Z.

You can relax. Who told you that you couldn’t have a family because of herpes? That’s not the case. Herpes virus type 2, the more common cause of herpes genital infection, strikes about 20 percent of the adult population. Infected women can and do have children.

The initial herpes infection is usually the most dramatic one. Not only does it cause the typical herpes rash, but it can raise body temperature and make a person feel quite sick. Recurrences aren’t as distressing. A first infection during pregnancy, especially when it occurs late in pregnancy, poses the greatest threat of transmission to the newborn as it passes through the birth canal, but that threat can be overcome with a cesarean section.

You have already had the first infection. You might or might not have recurrences. A recurrence during pregnancy poses a risk of transmission to the baby if you have a breakout at the time of labor. Again, a cesarean section can lessen the risk. If you don’t have an active infection at the time of labor, vaginal delivery is safe. Some doctors give women who are prone to recurrences antiviral medicines before delivery, but that isn’t standard practice.

The herpes booklet explains this common infection and how it’s treated. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue, No. 1202, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Which number is used to determine high blood pressure – the first or the second? I always thought that the second number was the more important one. My doctor, now retired, told me that. My new doctor says that isn’t true. What do you say? – J.D.

Both numbers are important. If either one exceeds the limit set for normal pressure, the person has high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is one whose first number is less than 120 and whose second number is less than 80. High blood pressure is a reading with a first number 140 or higher or a second number 90 or higher. Values between those numbers are called prehypertension.

In the old days, more attention was paid to the second number, the diastolic blood pressure. That’s no longer the practice.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I do a sit-up, I have a bulge in the center of my stomach midway between the belly button and my breastbone. It’s not big, and it doesn’t hurt. I saw a doctor because I thought it might be a hernia. He gave it a name I don’t remember and said it wasn’t a hernia. Do you know what this is? – D.D.

I’m pretty sure you’re talking about diastasis (die-AS-tuh-siss – a separation) recti. “Recti” refers to the rectus abdominis muscles, the vertical muscles that span the distance from the breastbone and lower ribs to the top of the pubic bone. In the center of the abdomen, between the two adjacent edges of these abdominal muscles, is a strip of ligamentlike tissue called the linea alba. Thinning of the linea alba can produce a slight bulge when a person strains. It isn’t a hernia. It doesn’t require any treatment.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 74. I have never been circumcised. I cannot push the foreskin back like I used to, and I can’t keep myself clean. I asked about circumcision, but the doctor said I am too old. Am I? – R.K.

ANSWER: You’re not too old if you really need the operation. You need it if you’re getting infections. The procedure can be done with local anesthesia.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: This past winter I lost 50 pounds and am quite proud of myself. Now I have all sorts of ugly stretch marks. I thought I would look stunning on the beach. I probably will look stunning, but not for the reasons I thought I would. Can’t something be done about these things? – C.C.

Stretch marks are scars. Your former weight stretched the skin beyond its limits, and the skin tore. Scars formed where the tears occurred.

Time is one of the best treatments for them. They lighten up and blend in with the rest of the skin. How long that takes is unpredictable, but it happens.

Retin-A – an acne medicine – has been suggested as a treatment for stretch marks. I can’t tell you if it’s successful all the time or how much of the time.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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