Skip to content

    Genital Herpes Health Center

    Select An Article

    Genital Herpes and Your Sex Life

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    You can have a fulfilling sex life if you have genital herpes, even though it may be more complicated than it was before your diagnosis. Now, you must be careful about what you do and when you do it.

    Avoid these sexual activities when you have sores on your genitals, or when you feel a herpes outbreak coming on:

    Recommended Related to Genital Herpes

    Home Care Measures for Genital Herpes

    First, simple self-care may be enough to relieve most discomfort caused by genital herpes. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, can help ease the pain of herpes symptoms. Doctors sometimes recommend soaking the affected area in warm water. But the area should be kept dry most of the time. If toweling off after bathing is uncomfortable, try using a hair dryer on the "cool" setting. Then put on cotton underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture better than...

    Read the Home Care Measures for Genital Herpes article > >

    • Vaginal sex
    • Anal sex
    • Receiving oral sex (fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus)

    Between outbreaks, it's OK to have sex, as long as your partner understands and accepts the risk. For example, as long as you don't have herpes sores on your mouth, you can perform oral sex on your partner, including when you have an outbreak of genital symptoms.

    But your partner can be infected with herpes even when you don't have symptoms or sores. To help prevent that, always use a latex condom for vaginal sex, anal sex, and receiving fellatio. Condoms are not guaranteed to prevent infection, but research has shown that they provide some protection. Use a dental dam for cunnilingus and analingus.

    Otherwise, use your imagination. There are many ways people can express themselves sexually without having genital-to-genital or mouth-to-genital contact. Exploring them can enrich your sex life and make up for having to avoid other activities because of genital herpes. Consult a health care professional if you have any doubts about what's safe and what is not.

    For example, you could try mutual masturbation, which poses almost no risk: You could masturbate together -- side by side, facing each other, or back to back -- or masturbate each other manually. Just make sure you don't have any broken skin on your hands, and wash hands with soap and warm water afterward. Also, never touch a herpes sore and then touch your partner, and make sure no bodily fluids could be exchanged by accident. If you and your partner like vibrators or dildos, you could try using them on each other. Make sure you wash the toy before and after, and don't share it.

    A Drug for Genital Herpes May Be Right for You

    You might also consider taking antiviral drug therapy for genital herpes to reduce the amount of virus you shed. A recent study shows that daily suppressive therapy (taking a drug daily to sharply reduce the frequency of outbreaks) may help keep your partner from being infected. (You should still use a condom, however, because suppressive therapy is just 50% effective in preventing transmission.)

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    STD Overview
    Slideshow
    BHC Healthy Sex Life
    Quiz
     
    things your guy wish you knew slideshow
    Slideshow
    Sex Drive Killers 03
    Slideshow
     
    Genital Herpes Risks Quiz
    Quiz
    Young couple holding hands
    Quiz
     
    Hepatitis Prevent 10
    Feature
    Herpes Vaccine Study
    Video
     
    Daughter Development Evaluator
    Article
    HPV Vaccine Future
    Article
     
    STD Facts Quiz
    Quiz
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
     

    WebMD Special Sections