How Can I Avoid Another Outbreak Of Genital Herpes
As the herpes virus stays in the nerves near where the infection first appeared, it will come back in the same area. Recurrent infections can be triggered by:
- ultraviolet light
- a weakened immune system for example if youre going through chemotherapy or HIV .
Obviously, a lot of these things are pretty difficult to avoid though. But the risk of genital herpes can be reduced by:
- Using a condom every time you have sex . The condom needs to cover the infected area.
- Not sharing sex toys .
This page was last reviewed in February 2018
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most women with genital herpes do not know they have it. But, if you get symptoms with the first outbreak of genital herpes, they can be severe. Genital herpes also can be severe and long-lasting in people whose immune systems do not work properly, such as women with HIV.
The first signs of genital herpes usually show up two to 12 days after having sexual contact with someone who has herpes. Symptoms can last from two to four weeks. There are other early symptoms of genital herpes:
- Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever
If you have any symptoms of genital herpes, see a doctor or nurse.
Herpes And Fertility: Myths Realities And Stigma
One of the most popular topics in the Life With Herpes community is how herpes affects pregnancy and fertility. We chatted with the community founder to get the scoop. Here, well walk you through a stigma-free herpes 101, including why the infection might not impact your fertility, and why you shouldnt stress too much about passing on herpes to your baby during pregnancy.
When Alexandra Harbushka was 25, she told an audience at a conference that she had herpes. The result? After her speech, many people approached her to tell her that they, too, had herpes, and that they’d never told anyone until now.
Alexandra was curious. Why weren’t people talking about herpes? How could she help people with herpes meet one another, talk candidly about it, and access medically accurate, stigma-free information? She decided to start Life with Herpes an online community where people with herpes can connect.
One of the most prominent topics in the community? Fertility concerns. Alexandra says both men and women wonder how having herpes will impact their family planning. Will they have to use condoms forever to avoid transmitting herpes? Will they have to conceive via IVF in order to not infect a baby? Will herpes negatively affect pregnancy?
If you have the same questions, read on we’ve got the facts.
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What Will A First Episode In Pregnancy Mean For Me And My Baby
If your first episode happens in the first 3 months of pregnancy, your baby is not more likely to have developmental problems and your risk of miscarriage is not increased. Later in pregnancy, a first episode should not affect your baby unless you are in labour .
If you go into labour less than 6 weeks after a first episode of genital herpes, your immune system wont have had time to produce antibodies to protect your baby. There is thus a high chance of passing the virus to your baby if you have a vaginal birth. If your first episode is earlier in pregnancy, your immune system will provide protection to your baby.
When a baby catches the herpes virus at birth, it is known as neonatal herpes. It can be serious but is very rare in the UK . Your baby will be looked after in a neonatal unit by a specialist team of doctors.
What If I Have A Herpes Outbreak While Pregnant
If you have a herpes outbreak while pregnant, treatment with acyclovir or valacyclovir is recommended. These drugs are generally considered to be safe during pregnancy. Oral medication is used for treatment unless the outbreak is severe.
If you have an outbreak or prodromal symptoms at the time of delivery, a C-section is recommended over vaginal delivery.
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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes is a serious viral infection that can, sadly, be fatal . There are three subgroups of neonatal herpes depending on the site of infection:
- skin, eye and/or mouth
- affecting central nervous system
- infection thats spread and involves multiple organs.
If neonatal herpes is just on the skin, eye and/or mouth, it has the best chance of being cured. If neonatal herpes has spread to multiple organs, thats when it can be much more serious .
How Genital Herpes Can Affect Your Pregnancy
If you have genital herpes, its possible to spread the virus to your baby. A woman can spread it to her baby while she is:
Taking care of her newborn
If the baby gets the virus while in the womb, the mother may have a miscarriage or deliver the baby too early, causing the baby to be premature.
When the baby catches the virus during birth or shortly thereafter, this can be deadly for the baby. Be sure your OB/GYN knows that you have genital herpes so that precautions can be taken.
What If I Find Out I Have An Sti
Dont worry. Most STIs can be treated. These are available in most pharmacies or from a GP or GUM clinic.
Some treatments are not suitable if you are trying to get pregnant. Your GP, pharmacist or clinic will let you know which ones.
If you have an STI you shouldnt have sex until seven days after you and your partner have completed treatment and the infection has cleared. Sometimes, symptoms may not go away after the first treatment and you may need another round. If the treatment doesnt work you may need more tests.
Tell the doctor, nurse or pharmacist that you want to start trying for a baby. They will be able to advise you about when the infection should clear and when to start trying for a baby.
What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, cesarean section may be recommended.
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Will I Need A C
Once you go into labor, well carefully examine you for genital lesions. If we see something suspicious, we will recommend a C-section.
If you have no symptoms and no sores in the genital region, a vaginal delivery may be safe. Lesions can sometimes appear in other areas, such as the legs or back. If this is the case, well cover them to make sure the baby doesnt come into contact with them.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated During Pregnancy
You should take acyclovir or valaciclovir tablets, as above.
If it’s your first outbreak of genital herpes, your baby may be more at risk because you haven’t had time to develop immune protection against the virus, which also helps protect the baby.
Some women experiencing an outbreak of genital herpes might be advised to have a caesarean. This would prevent the herpes virus passing from mother to baby during a vaginal birth. But most women in Australia with genital herpes do give birth safely to healthy babies vaginally.
It’s often recommended that women who have ever had genital herpes take antiviral tablets prior to the birth, even if the herpes isn’t active at the time.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about the best course of action for your situation.
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How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.
During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.
However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.
For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:
- Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
- If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
- Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.
Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.
If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.
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There Are Two Common Blood Tests Used To Identify Herpes And Theyre Often Misleading
I had a patient once who underwent this test, which was positive, and was told she has herpes, which to her was devastating and life-altering, Friedman says. She burst into tears when I explained the significance or lack thereof with this test, which is very misleading. There are two common blood tests used to identify herpes: IgG and IgM. The IgM test is still used by some doctors even though it has been denounced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . According to the American Sexual Health Association , IgM tests can lead to deceptive results, as well as false assumptions about how and when a person acquired HSV.
And thats not all: IgM tests fail to accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, leading them to provide false-positive results for HSV-2. In other words, if youve been exposed to oral herpes , results of the IgM test could lead you to believe youre positive for genital herpes, when in fact you simply have antibodies against HSV-1.
IgG tests, on the other hand, are more accurate, but arent without their own issues. For instance, ASHA says that while an IgG test can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2, the problem is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach a detectable level varies from person to person. This means that even with accurate results, someone could get a false-negative if they have the test administered too soon after contracting the virus .
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More Support And Information
The Family Planning Association provides straightforward information and support on sexual health, sex and relationships to everyone in the UK.
Public Health England National Sexual Health Helpline 0300 123 7123
NHS Choices provides information on sexual health including contraception, STIs and sexual health services in your area.
Terrence Higgins Trust provides HIV and sexual health services in the UK, running services out of local centres across Great Britain. Also provides information about HIV and pregnancy.
HIV i-base provides information about HIV including pregnancy and womens health
Managing Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
If youre pregnant and you have genital herpes, you may be concerned about the risk of spreading the infection to your baby. Be reassured that the risk is extremely smallespecially if you have had herpes for some time. The following steps can help make the risk even smaller:
Remember, the odds are strongly in favor of your having a healthy baby.
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Is It Safe To Be Around Someone With Herpes
If you share drinks or meals, it wont get you Herpes. Touch, kissing, and oral sex are considered the three ways to spread Herpes. Partners can transfer the message from one part of their bodies to another, as well as from one part of the body into a different part. You dont need a lot of skin-to-skin contact to fight the virus.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
To find out if someone has genital herpes, health care providers do tests on:
- fluid from a sore
People with genital herpes need to tell recent, current, and future sex partners about their infection. Because someone may never have symptoms or may not have symptoms for months to years after infection, a current partner may not be the source of the infection.
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How Can I Reduce The Risk To My Unborn Baby
Medication for you and your baby should help prevent or reduce the chance of your baby being seriously ill:
- if your first episode is before 28 weeks of pregnancy, you may be offered antiviral treatment at that time and again from 36 weeks of pregnancy until your baby is born
- if your first episode is at or after 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will be advised to continue your treatment until your baby is born.
If your first episode is late in pregnancy , you should be offered a planned caesarean section to reduce the chance of your baby getting neonatal herpes.
If your first episode is earlier in pregnancy, the risk to your baby is low and you should be able to have a vaginal birth. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns.
Some people have no signs or symptoms at all. Some people just get a few blisters in the genital area, which are not particularly painful. Flare-ups are usually mild. An early-warning tingling sensation often happens before the flare-up occurs.
However, for some people, the symptoms can be very painful. This is particularly so if it is your first episode when you may also feel unwell and notice very painful sores or watery blisters.
Symptoms can occur within a short time of coming into contact with the virus or it may take many weeks, months or years before any signs or symptoms appear.
Herpes And Female Fertility
Herpes can impact female fertility only in an indirect way: a herpes infection may reduce your ability to get pregnant by making it more difficult to have unprotected sex. During an active herpes outbreak, having unprotected sex is not recommended, as the virus could spread. Fortunately, people with herpes can resume having unprotected sex after the outbreak has passed.
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Time Intercourse To Your Most Fertile Days
To limit unprotected intercourse to only your most fertile days, and therefore decrease the chance of sharing the virus, it is helpful to know a few things about your body and your signs of fertility. One of the best ways to do this is by monitoring your most fertile days by using an ovulation predictor kit . An OPK is up to 99% accurate as a predictor of when ovulation is likely to occur. The at-home urine test measures the pituitary luteinizing hormone , which increases as you approach ovulation.
- The day you see your strongly positive result is the day of the biggest increase in your LH secretion from your pituitary gland. This “LH surge” is what triggers release of an egg from your ovary .
- In the average 28-day menstrual cycle, you will see this result around day 12 or 13. It will be easier to figure out your fertile window if your cycles are regular.
- The LH surge predicts that ovulation will likely occur 24 to 36 hours later – around day 13 to 14 of a 28-day cycle.
Have intercourse the day of the surge and about 36 hours later. This is your best fertile window for live sperm to catch the egg while it is still fertilizable. The timing takes into account the lifespan of the sperm and the egg. According to Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, sperm can survive in a woman’s reproductive track for three to five days. The egg is only viable for fertilization from 12 to 24 hours.