Herpes is a sexually transmitted viral illness that affects many adults worldwide. Since it is associated with stigma, it’s often not talked about and most people do not know whether herpes can affect fertility.
The Scientific Basis
HSV is a disease transmitted from one person to another after sexual activity. It results from two variants of viruses, namely herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Since the latter is usually referred to as genital warts, most patients wonder if it can cause infertility. Here is a discussion that describes HSV-2 and how it affects women’s and men’s fertility.
Herpes, as described above, results from HSV-1 and HSV-2. The latter is genital warts that manifest as white blisters or small red pimples, along with itching and pain. These white blisters may end up forming ulcerations in the genital area. It is spread through contact in the vaginal and anal regions.
Contrarily, HSV-1 is also known as oral herpes, fever blisters or cold sores. It is spread through saliva when kissing. This explains why mostly teenagers are diagnosed with oral herpes.
Once you contract the viral infection, your physician can only manage it rather than cure it. Most individuals that contract this infection never experience symptoms because it remains dormant in the body. Those who experience symptoms can manage their symptoms by using several available drugs and home remedies.
About 17% of adults in the United States are diagnosed with genital herpes, while approximately 50-80% are diagnosed with oral herpes. This disease is associated with stigma, which discourages most patients from communicating with healthcare practitioners.
Herpes and Female Fertility
Unlike other sexually transmitted illnesses like gonorrhea, herpes does not affect fertility in women. Most physicians agree that it has limited to no risk in the ability of a woman to conceive.
Although patients might experience worrying symptoms, such as vaginal discharge, blisters and ulcers around the genitals, the manifestations do not affect the reproductive organs. However, physicians recommend that patients seek medical help and abstain from sexual intercourse when diagnosed with the illness.
Herpes and Pregnancy
The most common question apart from infertility is the impact of HSV on childbirth and pregnancy. Reports from the American Sexual Health Association indicate that about 25 to 30% of women in the United States are diagnosed with genital warts. In this population, not more than 0.1% of these newborns have neonatal HSV. This concludes that the risk is minimal.
However, a rare strain of the HSV can increase the risk of a miscarriage. This strain is known as human herpesvirus 6A (HHV-6A). Recent studies indicate that the HHV-6A was found in the uterus of females who were finding it challenging to conceive. However, many women diagnosed with general HSV can carry a healthy child to term.
HHV-6A typically infects the uterine lining of patients. It creates an uncomfortable environment for the egg to implant into the uterine wall. Your physician can schedule a biopsy of your uterine wall to establish if you have HHV-6A. To test for HHV-6, the physician will take a sample of the sores in the genital area and blood tests.
Expectant and pregnant women with a HSV infection are advised to inform their physicians about their diagnosis. This helps the doctor monitor for outbreaks before childbirth. Doctors recommend opting for a C-section rather than natural delivery in order to protect the baby from contracting the illness. If you do not have an open sore, you can have normal childbirth because the risk of transmitting the disease is limited.
Although the infection poses no risk to fertility for females, males, on the other hand, can suffer from the disease. Studies indicate that such an infection can cause male infertility by reducing sperm count. A survey conducted in 2013 showed a correlation between men with low sperm count and herpes.
Research indicates that male patients diagnosed with genital warts showed increased healthy pregnancies after taking antiviral drugs. Therefore, medicines such as acyclovir that have been approved to treat both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can help with infertility in those who have herpes. Also, they can manage lytic infections due to HSV infection.
Conclusively, though HSV is a sexually transmitted disease, the illness does not affect women’s fertility unless you contract the HHV-6 variant. The viral infection can go undetected over a long period, affecting the sperm count of men. However, if diagnosed and managed, men with herpes can increase their sperm count. Therefore, you can become pregnant and carry your baby to term even after being diagnosed with the viral disease.