One in eight Australians……
Genital herpes is an extremely common disease with one in eight Australians carrying the virus. There is a lot of misinformation in the community about genital herpes and this means the psychological impact of the disease often outweighs the physical effects.
Here are some facts:
- The reality is that many herpes carriers don’t even know they have the disease, as they may never have symptoms, or only have very mild ones.
- Symptoms for thrush and herpes can be very similar and can be mistaken.
- Genital herpes symptoms can occur months or even years after the actual sexual contact that transmitted the virus.
- Genital herpes infection occurs through exposure of the genitals to the virus from a partner with active herpes. This can be through genital or oral contact.
- The first attack is the most severe and most risky to pregnant women.
- There are effective medications that can help to control symptoms.
- Genital herpes can cause infections on the genitals, buttocks, anus, thighs, mouth, lips or face. Infections on the face are traditionally called type-one herpes, while genital herpes is called type-two herpes. You can, however, get cross over infections.
- Genital herpes is not hereditary and has no effect on fertility. It is not transmitted by sperm or ovum (eggs).
- Women with genital herpes can have a normal pregnancy and birth especially if the infection first occurred prior to becoming pregnant. They will have antibodies that help protect the baby.
- If you have an episode of genital herpes when you go into labour, a caesarean will generally be recommended to prevent transmission to the baby.
- Recurrent genital herpes presents only a minimal risk during pregnancy but it can interfere with a woman’s enjoyment of pregnancy.
- The pregnancy could end in miscarriage if the first episode of herpes occurs in early pregnancy.
- If the first episode occurs in the last few weeks of pregnancy there is a potential for the virus to transmit during the birth to the baby as antibodies have not developed and large amounts of the virus is present. Antiviral drugs and/or a caesarean may be needed in this case.
- If your partner has genital herpes but you don’t, then get a blood test to see if you have any antibodies. Make sure you use condoms through to the birth, avoid oral sex if there is a history of facial herpes and consider having your partner take antiviral drugs to suppress outbreaks.
- Being a parent with genital herpes does not affect your children. If you have cold sores avoid kissing your children during an outbreak. This particularly applies to a baby as it could potentially lead to a severe, widespread infection in the newborn.
- Never be afraid to let your health professional know if you or your partner have a history of genital herpes. It can only help.
- Get ‘The Facts Pack’ from your doctor. This is an information kit that gives information about genital herpes: www.thefacts.com.au