A genital herpes diagnosis doesn’t mean your sex life is over. It can make your sex life a bit more complicated, but you can still find the fulfillment you need. You do need to be careful about what you do, when you do it, and who you do it with. But sex with herpes can be as intimate, loving, and enjoyable as it’s always been.
Research has provided data that illustrates how likely -- or more accurately, unlikely -- you are to transmit herpes during sex, provided that you take precautions and understand your own specific circumstances.
You can educate yourself about having sex with herpes. This includes what precautions you need to take, what your partner’s chances are of getting herpes, and how different types of sexual encounters relate to herpes.
Avoid these sexual activities if you feel a herpes outbreak coming on.
Your likelihood of passing the genital herpes virus to a partner is the highest during an outbreak -- that is, a time when a sore is present. When you’re not experiencing an outbreak, there’s only a 4-10% chance of transmitting it, depending mostly on the gender of both partners.
If you have an outbreak currently, avoid the following types of sexual encounters:
● Vaginal sex
● Anal sex
● Receiving oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus)
Sex In Between Herpes Outbreaks
Medical doctors recommend waiting at least one week after all herpes sores have healed before you engage in any form of physical sex with your partner. However, it’s still important to be aware that even if you haven’t had an outbreak in months, there is still a 4-10% chance of transmission.
If you’re sexually active, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks of infecting your partner and enjoy physical intimacy.
Condoms don’t always protect against herpes.
Condoms are an effective form of prevention for most STDs, but unfortunately, they don’t completely eliminate the chances of transmitting herpes. However, they can help reduce the chances.
Unlike many other STDs, herpes spreads by skin to skin contact, not through bodily fluids. Since condoms don’t cover all of your potentially infectious skin, they cannot completely eliminate the risk of transmitting herpes.
Still, condoms are an important tool for preventing the spread of herpes, as well as preventing unwanted pregnancies. You should always use a latex condom for vaginal sex, anal sex, and receiving fellatio. Condoms are not guaranteed to prevent infection, but research has demonstrated that they do provide some protection. Use a dental dam for analingus and cunnilingus.
Suppressive therapy is the use of prescription Valtrex on a daily basis, whether or not an outbreak is present. While Valtrex is commonly used to stop an outbreak as it happens, it should also be used daily to prevent outbreaks from happening at all.
A recent study showed that daily suppressive therapy -- taking a drug daily to sharply reduce the frequency of outbreaks -- may help prevent your partner from being infected. However, it’s only 50% effective in reducing transmission, so you should still use a condom.
Valtrex is an antiviral medication, which reduces the occurrence of herpes outbreaks. The drug also reduces the time it takes the virus to “shed” when taken daily, meaning it reduces the degree to which the virus is contagious. Studies show that it can reduce viral shedding periods so much that transmission rates are reduced by 50%.
Valtrex is the brand name of generic valocyclovir. Other common antivirals used for herpes include acyclovir and Zovirax. Acyclovir is cheaper than Valtrex or generic valocyclovir, but it requires you to take more capsules at a time. With Valtrex, you only need to take one pill a day for the purpose of suppressive therapy.
Side Effects of Valtrex
The side effects of Valtrex can include:
● tired feeling,
● stomach pain,
● joint pain,
● menstrual pain,
● skin rash,
● stuffy nose,
● or sore throat.
There hasn’t been enough research to determine for sure whether Valtrex is safe for pregnant women. Valtrex should only be used during pregnancy when the benefits to the mother outweigh risks to the fetus. It is also unknown whether Valtrex is safe for breastfeeding infants. If you need to take Valtrex while nursing, you should consider using formula instead of breastfeeding.
Daily therapy with Valtrex isn’t the only option you have, nor is it necessarily the best one for you. If your herpes outbreaks are few and far between, you may be able to simply keep a supply of antiviral pills on hand that you can take in case you have a flare-up. If you’re not sure about medication for suppressive therapy, talk to your physician.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, which can indicate a serious side effect that affects your red blood cells, stop taking the medication immediately and call your doctor right away.
● fever, easy bruising or bleeding;
● red spots on the skin (not related to herpes or chickenpox);
● bloody diarrhea, vomiting;
● pale or yellowed skin;
● weakness or fainting; or
● urinating less than usual or not at all.
You should also contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following, all of which are serious side effects of Valcyclovir.
● pain in your lower back;
● drowsiness, mood changes, increased thirst, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting;
● swelling, weight gain, feeling short of breath;
● confusion, agitation, aggression, hallucinations, trouble concentrating;
● feeling shaky or unsteady;
● problems with speech or vision; or
● seizure (convulsions).
Oral Sex and Herpes
HSV-1 is usually the virus associated with oral herpes, but it can also spread to the genitals via oral sex. Either the giver or the receiver can transmit herpes to the other partner if a sore is active, or if there is viral shedding.
To make oral sex safer, use a condom or a dental dam. These are far from foolproof, but they’re still better than nothing at all.
If you’re not sure what a dental dam is, it’s a protective device designed for oral sex performed on a vulva or anal region. It’s a thin, square piece of latex that can be placed over the region to which to oral sex is being administered. You can also make a makeshift dental dam out of a condom by pulling the ring off, then cutting it along one side. You can even use a small piece of plastic wrap in a pinch.
Herpes simplex virus 1 can spread as oral herpes if you share a drink or eating utensils with another person. You can also have the virus transmitted to you this way.
Herpes Transmission Rates
● The likelihood of passing the herpes virus to a partner is highest during an outbreak, when a sore is present.
● When a person is not experiencing an outbreak, and no sores are present, there is a 4-10% chance of transmission. (This depends on the sex of the infected person.)
According to studies performed by Valtrex, the following are the rates of herpes transmission per year of regular heterosexual sex.
● If partners avoid sex during outbreaks, there is a 4% chance of transmission from a female to a male, and an 8% chance of transmission from a male to a female.
● If partners also use either condoms or antiviral medication, there is a 2% chance of female to male transmission, and a 4% chance from male to female.
● If partners use both condoms and antiviral medication, there is a 1% chance of female to male transmission, and a 2% chance of transmission from male to female.
Is there a higher risk of male-to-female transmission or female-to-male transmission?
In general, females are more likely to contract an HSV infection than males. This is because the majority of the vulva is composed of mucous membranes. While there are mucous membranes on the male genitalita -- including the head of the penis, the foreskin, and the urethra -- there is less exposed surface area of mucous membrane than on the vulva.
When both partners have herpes, you can enjoy a free sexual life together.
All of the factors we’ve discussed above only apply if one partner has herpes and the other does not. If you and your partner both have the same type of herpes, you have a lot more freedom with sex than a couple that’s trying not to get the non-seropositive partner infected. For example, if you both have HSV-2, both of you already have antibodies built up, and you can’t be re-infected. Your outbreaks and symptoms will only be affected by medication and the strength of your immune system.
If you have different strains of herpes -- that is, one of you has HSV-1, and the other has HSV-2 -- you’re already well protected by your antibodies. If you have HSV-2, you can still get HSV-1, but you’re not as likely to. However, if you have HSV-1, you are still vulnerable to HSV-2 transmission.
There are dating sites available that cater to people with herpes. This can help you meet partners who already have the same kind of herpes that you do, eliminating transmission risk from the equation completely.
Check out our reviews of the top herpes dating sites, and join the best ones to meet your batch today.