Genital Herpes in Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideSTDs Pictures Slideshow: Facts About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

STDs Pictures Slideshow: Facts About Sexually Transmitted Diseases

What medications treat and manage genital herpes?

Antiviral medications are available that can help manage the severity and duration of outbreaks, if taken immediately prior to (when there are tingling or unusual skin sensations but no blisters) or within 24 hours of an outbreak. The medications typically used are

These are all typically taken by mouth. In severe cases of viral infection, antiviral medications may be given intravenously, but this is not usually needed for genital herpes. Topical medications that are applied directly to the sores are also available, but these are less effective than oral medications and are not generally used.

All of these medications may also be given daily as suppressive therapy to decrease the number of outbreaks in people who have frequent outbreaks (more than six outbreaks per year).

How is genital herpes managed during pregnancy?

Oral antiviral medications as described above may be used during pregnancy. One serious concern with genital herpes in pregnancy is transmission of the infection to the baby during delivery. In an infant, genital herpes infection can spread through the bloodstream and have serious consequences. Cesarean delivery (C-section) is performed for women who go into labor while there is an active outbreak of genital herpes in order to prevent infection of the baby during birth.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women with recurrent genital herpes be offered oral antiviral medication at or beyond 36 weeks until delivery in order to increase the chances of being able to deliver vaginally.

What is the prognosis for a person with genital herpes?

As discussed previously, there is no cure for genital herpes infection, and the infection persists for life. People vary in the number and severity of outbreaks they experience. For those with frequent outbreaks, taking antiviral medications as suppressive therapy can decrease the frequency of outbreaks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016
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