Can You Have Unprotected Sex Without Transmitting Herpes?

Many people with herpes worry that their diagnosis will have a negative impact on their sexual and romantic life. However, with open communication and some adjustments to how they have sex, herpes doesn’t need to be a deal breaker.

The most important thing to remember is that herpes can be spread during any sexual activity, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. But can you have unprotected sex without transmitting herpes?

1. Don’t touch herpes sores

During an outbreak, herpes can be spread through skin-to-skin contact (kissing, touching, and sexual intercourse). It is most contagious during an outbreak when there are open sores that are leaking fluid or have a burning, itching, or tingling feeling. If you have sores, avoid sex or vaginal penetration and only use latex condoms. It is also important to not share utensils or personal items, such as towels, with anyone. Using daily antiviral medicine on a regular basis can help limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing herpes to other partners.

Many couples find that herpes does not prevent them from having healthy and satisfying sex, especially when they have good communication and practice safe sex. This may include telling current and future partners about having herpes and using a condom or dental dam during sex. Some couples may also choose to have unprotected sex as long as they do not have a herpes outbreak and are not having symptoms, such as tingling or a burning sensation.

It is also a good idea to get tested for herpes and other STIs at a STD testing clinic or doctor’s office to make sure you are not infected with any other viruses. It’s also a good idea to test your partner if you are in a monogamous relationship, as they can then know about the herpes diagnosis and take steps to protect themselves.

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2. Don’t share utensils

Whether you’re talking about utensils or a toothbrush, sharing things that come into contact with genital herpes sores can be risky. During herpes outbreaks, it’s especially important to avoid sharing anything that could touch a herpes sore or saliva from someone who has herpes. You should also avoid kissing or sharing items like a washcloth or lip balm when you have oral herpes.

It’s essential to talk openly and honestly with your sexual partner about herpes. But how you do this is entirely up to you and your relationship. The key is to be respectful, honest and direct, but choose a time and place that’s right for you. For example, telling your partner immediately before or after sex is likely to put them on edge and create anxiety. It can be better to tell your partner in a private setting, while you’re both relaxed and focused on other things.

It’s also a good idea to get your partner tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) as soon as you can after any type of unprotected sex. Getting tested together can build trust and help you both feel more confident about your herpes status. It’s possible to live a full, fulfilling sexual life with herpes, but it’s all about open communication and taking precautions. Luckily, herpes treatment options have made it easier than ever to prevent infection and minimize symptoms.

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3. Don’t have sex during an outbreak

You can still have a fulfilling and romantic life when you have herpes, but it’s important to take the right precautions. Avoiding sex when you have herpes outbreaks is essential, but using barrier methods of contraception like condoms and taking antiviral drugs can also help. It’s also important to be open and honest with your sexual partners about herpes so they are aware of the risks.

One of the main ways that herpes is transmitted is by having vaginal, anal or oral sex. But herpes can also be transmitted by licking someone’s hands or kissing them, and even foreplay activities such as fingering and rubbing the genital area. It is also possible to catch herpes by touching the genital area with an infected partner’s hand or with their clothes, and by having contact with a herpes sore.

When you have an outbreak, it’s important to skip all sexual contact until the sores heal and scab over. But between outbreaks, it is possible to have sex, especially with a non-infected partner who is aware of the risk. It’s also important to talk to a health care provider, like a Planned Parenthood nurse or doctor, about safer sex and herpes. They can help you find a good plan to reduce transmission and pregnancy risk, including avoiding herpes during sex, choosing an effective method of contraception, and practicing healthy foreplay.

4. Don’t get pregnant

If you are herpes-positive, use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams during all sex until your outbreak clears up. The risk of getting pregnant is very high during unprotected sex, even when the virus has no symptoms and is not being actively shed. If you have herpes and become pregnant, let your doctor know right away. They can help you manage your pregnancy safely and give you treatment to prevent the herpes virus from transmitting to your baby.

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Women who have herpes in the last trimester of pregnancy have a higher risk of passing the infection on to their babies. However, their herpes symptoms usually go away during labor and delivery, so their immune systems make antibodies that protect the baby. If the herpes virus is active in the birth canal during delivery, it can cause complications. Fortunately, herpes does not pass through breast milk.

If you are herpes-positive, it is still possible to have healthy sex with your partner. There is just a little more work involved, such as having the conversation early and using barrier methods whenever you have sex. For more information, talk to a nurse or doctor, such as the staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center, who can provide you with education on safer sex and STI prevention. They can also connect you with herpes support groups in your area.

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