Genital Herpes - Prevention
You can take steps to help keep from getting genital herpes—or any other sexually transmitted infection. You can also take steps to keep from giving herpes to your sex partner(s).
Practice safer sex
Preventing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is easier than
treating an infection after it occurs.
- Talk with your partner about STIs before
beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an
STI. Remember that it is quite possible to have an STI without
knowing it. Some STIs, such as
HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be
detected in the blood.
- Be responsible.
- Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms
of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
- Avoid sexual contact
with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an
- Don't have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Your
risk for an STI increases if you have several sex partners.
For more information, see the topic
Using condoms lowers your chances of
getting or spreading herpes and other STIs, even if you are
already using another birth control method to prevent pregnancy.
must be in place before the start of sexual contact. Use condoms with a new
partner until you are certain that he or she doesn't have an STI. You can use
male condoms or female condoms.
Don't have sex, even with condoms, while you're having herpes symptoms.
Take antiviral medicine
Taking daily valacyclovir, an antiviral medicine, can prevent spread of genital herpes to your sexual partner even when you do not have an active outbreak.
Take care during pregnancy
A woman who gets
genital herpes while she is pregnant could pass the infection to her
baby during delivery. Herpes can make newborns seriously ill.
If you are pregnant, follow these steps:
- Tell your doctor if you have been exposed to
genital herpes or have had an outbreak in the past.
- Let your doctor
know if you are currently having an outbreak, especially if
you are in the last part of your pregnancy.
- Avoid unsafe sex.
Herpes is often transmitted by people who don't know they
are infected and don't have symptoms. Use condoms.
- Avoid receiving
oral sex from partners who have
cold sores. Herpes in newborns can be caused by HSV-1,
the virus that most commonly causes cold sores. Most experts advise pregnant
women not to receive oral sex in the last 3 months of their pregnancy. It
increases their risk of genital infection with HSV-1.
Antiviral medicine can be used safely in pregnancy to reduce
the risk of an outbreak at the time of delivery. This lower risk, in turn, makes it less likely that delivery by cesarean section will be needed.
Wash your hands
If you are having a genital herpes outbreak, wash your
hands after using the bathroom or having any contact with blisters or sores.
This is especially important for people who are caring for babies.