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Can Herpes Affect Your Fertility?

Can Herpes Affect Your Fertility?

The stigma of herpes is long reaching. One of those quiet Sexual Transmitted Diseases, (STDs), that rarely gets talked about, this lack of communication and knowledge about the virus can lead many people to wonder what long term effects it can have on their body, health and yes even, their ability to have children in the future.

Herpes and fertility have been studied thoroughly and with good results. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that “during 2015–2016, prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) was 47.8%, and prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) was 11.9%,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A whopping 60% are symptom free, which means they have no idea that they have it, nor that they can pass it onto their partner. The good news is that if they don’t know they have it, they are likely not having outbreaks. Outbreaks are the time when the virus can be passed to others. Even if the outbreaks are on the cervix and cannot be seen, they can cause symptoms such as pelvic pain and burning. There are two types of HSV: HSV1 and HSV2. One causes oral fever blisters in most cases. However, these subtypes can affect any area. So, do not allow receptive oral sex from someone with a fever blister. Otherwise, you could end up with HSV1 or 2 of the genitals. Outbreaks tend to get less and less severe as time goes on, and for some, they stop completely.

This can leave a large percentage of the population fighting a virus they are unaware of. Which leads us back to our initial question: Can herpes affect your fertility?

Herpes and Female Fertility
Most experts agree that the answer is a resounding NO. While yes, herpes is a virus that affects the genital area (the vulva and vagina in women and the penis in men), it does not seem to cross over into other reproductive areas and has little if any effect on a man’s sperm production nor a woman’s ability to conceive. It does offer its own unique problems however when it comes to conception and pregnancy.

No, herpes doesn’t impede conception but it makes it more difficult in one respect: the fact that during an outbreak partners are encouraged to steer clear of close intimate contact, which could limit your “availability” during the most crucial baby-making time of the month. Still, most outbreaks are relatively short lived and a couple with active herpes should be able to try again to conceive within a month or two once all signs of lesions have dissipated.

Commonly characterized by its tell-tale blisters and burning and itching in the genital area, I need to share a quick not about diagnosis. In an interview with the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), Herpes expert Terri Warren, RN, ANP, shares that a swab test, laboratory blood test, and physical exam are necessary for proper diagnosis of Herpes because studies show that even sexual health experts using visual diagnosis alone are wrong 20% of the time.

Back to fertility impact, the herpes simplex virus is easily transmitted from partner to partner during an outbreak, and therefore could be transmitted to a baby during delivery should an outbreak occur. Under these circumstances, most obstetricians would encourage the mother to undergo a caesarean section just to safeguard the baby’s health. Others argue that that precaution isn’t even necessary.

Still, when no open lesions are present, it is agreed that a completely natural vaginal birth can take place with no ill effects to either mother or baby. As a matter of fact, research has shown that a mother with herpes has antibodies in her blood which the baby receives during the course of the pregnancy that helps to protect the baby from getting the virus even if it comes in contact with herpes either in the womb or during the delivery process.

There are two exceptions to this finding however, that could harm a fetus, thus causing a miscarriage or stillbirth:

  • When the first herpes episode is experienced in the first trimester of pregnancy. In this instance, the virus may be too strong, thus causing a miscarriage.
  • When the first herpes episode is experienced in the third trimester of pregnancy. In this case, the baby has not had the time to develop the proper antibodies and resistance to the virus, in which case neonatal herpes may develop, which can result in infant death.

Of course these two scenarios would mean that the herpes virus was contracted during the pregnancy. For women already suffering with herpes at the time of conception, those scenarios would be impossible.

Herpes and Male Fertility
When it comes to men and herpes, there seems to be risk to sperm count, thereby impacting a man’s fertility. One 2013 study out of Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran, researchers 70 semen samples from infertile men to analyze, comparing semen parameters between sample infected by the virus and non-infected samples. The study concluded that “Semen analysis showed that infertile men fell into two groups, the male factor group and the unexplained group. HSV-1 and HSV-2 DNA was detected in 16 (22.9%) and 10 (14.3%) of 70 semen samples, respectively. All HSV-positive samples had abnormal semen parameters (the male factor group). Although HSV infection was not associated with sperm motility and morphological defects, it was correlated with lower sperm count in the seminal fluid.”

HSV2 DNA has also been detected in the semen of men during herpes recurrence (Sex Transm Dis. 1999 Jan.)

Another concern however (for both partners) is that the herpes virus is just one of many STD’s that usually is contracted together such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. For instance, it is rare to contract herpes alone and not another STD with it; and those other STD’s may indeed have a direct impact on your fertility and pregnancy outcome.

So, what’s the lesson here? If you have herpes, get checked for other STD’s to make sure they are not what is standing in your way of a pregnancy; and when you do have herpes talk openly with your doctor about all of the things you can do to protect your baby both in the uterus and during delivery. Generally speaking, however, herpes has little effect on a couple’s fertility and in most cases does not pose any real threat to a pregnancy.


  • Online Health Forum of Medical Questions Answered Free – eHealth Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
  • McQuillan, G., Kruszon-Moran, D., Flagg, E.W. and Paulose-Ram, R. (February 2018). Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. National Centers for Health Statistics. Retrieved from
  • Health Information Organization Home Page – pain, nutrition, pregnancy, homeopathy, infertility, acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, menopause, Men’s Health, male reproductive health, andrology, chinese herbal medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
  • ASHA Herpes Resource Center Home – American Sexual Health Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
  • Monavari, S. H., Vaziri, M. S., Khalili, M., Shamsi-Shahrabadi, M., Keyvani, H., Mollaei, H., & Fazlalipour, M. (2012). Asymptomatic seminal infection of herpes simplex virus: impact on male infertility. Journal of biomedical research, 27(1), 56-61. Retrieved from
  • Wald, A., Matson, P., Ryncarz, A. and Corey, L. (199, Jan.). Detection of herpes simplex virus DNA in semen of men with genital HSV-2 infection. Sex Transm Dis. 26(1):1-3. Retrieved from

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull is a University-trained Obstetrician/Gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies and specializes in gynecologic diseases such as menstrual disorders, infertility diagnosis and treatment especially pertaining to tubal blockage and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Dr. Langdon is the inventor of 6 patent pending medical devices, and attended Ohio State University from 1987-1995 receiving her Medical Doctorate Degree (M.D.) with Honors in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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  1. Avatar

    I’m a newly wed (fresh) lol… I weigh 305lbs 5’11 in height so you cant really tell that I am the weight that I am but in running and squatting I can feel it physically and when I sleep. I have HSV2 my husband supports me fully, I just get discouraged because I am over weight and my cycles are irregular, and also have HSV2 I’m a strong believer in CHRIST I know he can do all things. I just want to be a MOTHER one day and complete my home 🙁 What are some practices and health tips to boost my fertility?

    • Dear Alexandria,

      Thanks for reaching out to us!

      I understand being concerned about HSV2. Know that HSV2 isn’t linked to an inability to conceive when general overall health is optimal. It can cause complications if the immune system is suppressed or not well. What is most concerning is that herpes can be passed from a mother to her child during childbirth which can result in blindness of the infant and even death. Many healthcare providers suggest a pregnant woman with herpes have a c-section to prevent the baby from being infected. So, you will be prepared for and work through that with your doctor in pregnancy.

      What perhaps is more concerning is irregular menstrual cycles. This can make it hard to track ones fertile window and ovulation. Irregular cycles are commonly caused by hormonal imbalance, stress, being over or underweight, a nutrient-deficient diet and over exercising. It’s important to think about all of these areas when working to support healthy cycles naturally.

      We share diet and lifestyle tips, as well as stress management tips for natural menstrual cycle support and weight management here… that may be helpful.

      Trust you will be a mother one day! I know you will!

  2. Avatar

    I’ve enjoyed reading this piece and appreciate the insight.
    I do want to clarify one important component: “…among those who do have it, a whopping 60% are symptom free, which means they have no idea that they have it, nor that they can pass it onto their partner.”

    While it is true that many infected persons are symptom free, that does not mean that the virus cannot still be passed to a partner. Viral shedding can occur without visible bumps or open sores around the mouth or genitals; an outbreak needn’t be present for the virus to spread. Thanks for posting this!

    • Avatar

      You read that wrong. The writer did not say that it couldn’t be passed on. They said that the 60% don’t know that they can pass it on. Big difference

  3. Avatar

    Hi! I have herpes and have been trying for 5 years. I now have pain during intercourse and am dry. I want to have children. What would be your suggestion on what to take? Please help and thanks for you help.

    • Dear Mamy,

      As shared here know that in general herpes has little affect on a couple’s fertility or chances of natural conception. In most cases herpes does not pose any real threat to a pregnancy, but do talk openly with your doctor about all of the things you can do to protect your baby both in the uterus and during delivery.

      To aid sperm in reaching the awaiting egg for fertilization there needs to be healthy cervical mucus production and to promote healthy vaginal secretions during intercourse there needs to be hormone balance. Learn 5 natural ways to aid the body in producing healthy, fertile cervical mucous in our guide Increase Cervical Mucous to Get Pregnant and the article The Best Herbal Remedies to Increase Cervical Mucous Production.

      I hope this is helpful!

  4. Avatar

    Hello! The physician has found the HSV virus in the sperm of my husband, by cultural method. And now she says that we can not try to conceive. She says he must take Valtrex for 2-3 months, IgG injections, and Viferon. We live in Russia. Antibodies and polymerase chain reaction research is not conducted.

  5. Avatar

    Hi! I was diagnosed with genital herpes last December and had an ectopic pregnancy in August last year. I would like to know if there is any connection between the two. I would like to try again, but I am really scared. I think I am still traumatized.

    How do I receive this information weekly?

    • Dear Laura,

      I am sorry this has been your experience! There is no evidence that the herpes virus crosses over from the genitalia into other reproductive organs, or that it could cause an ectopic pregnancy. Consider taking time to learn what may have led to this for you through the article Healing From Ectopic Pregnancy.

  6. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

    • Avatar

      Hi , was diagonised with g/herpes last feb and had an ectopic pregnancy in august last year, so would like to know if there is any connetion between the two. I would like to try again but I am realy scared. I think I am still traumatised.

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Amanda!

      I am sorry you have been through this and are worried!

      There is no evidence that the herpes virus crosses over from the genitalia into other reproductive organs, or that it could cause an ectopic pregnancy. It may help you to take some time to learn what may have led to this for you. Here is an article, Healing From Ectopic Pregnancy, that may help you.

      Best wishes!

  7. Avatar

    I am nervous because I want to have a big family. I am stil young and am childless. A woman can only have so many c sections, i think only 2, so I am hoping to beable to have natural birth. I am glad it doesn’t effect fertility.

    • Hi Nicole,

      Thank you for your comment. Many women have more than 2 cesarean sections. I hope you can go on to have a natural vaginal birth as well!

      Best Wishes,


  8. Avatar

    Thank you. A nice and relieving piece.