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Labiaplasty, oral sex, and herpes transmission risk?

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Hi there,

I have been diagnosed with the genital herpes virus over 10 years ago. I don’t know which type it is, and I’ll get retested to confirm. I use antivirals when I feel an oncoming OB and started taking them daily now to minimize the symptoms and get things under more control. I have been searching the internet and the forum but haven’t found answers to the following questions I have, I hope this community can help. 

1. Labiaplasty. Due to discomfort and to improve the quality of my life, I am scheduled for a Labiaplasty where my inner labia will be reduced as it is in the way and causing discomfort in daily activities. I understand that I can’t have an active OB during this minor procedure. My herpes is on the outer labia in one particular spot. I am wondering if this procedure could cause herpes complications in terms of spreading the herpes to other genital sites? I know the procedure can trigger an outbreak hence I started taking the antivirals daily in preparation, and disclosed the condition to my surgeon.  Thoughts?

2. Oral sex. If I am positive for the genital virus, and my partner isn’t, are there any risks in me performing oral sex on him without dams etc?  I’ve never had oral herpes (type1/cold sores).

3. Fingering and touching and transmission. If I don’t have an outbreak and am taking suppressive antivirals daily, can my partner use his hands and finger me without wearing any protective barrier? Can he catch the virus if he touches me and then himself/masturbates with the same hand? 

I hope these questions were appropriate to ask, and I hope this community can help with their answers and feedback   This condition bears so much stigma and is hard to understand by others, and even myself. Thank you  



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Hey there @Struggling

Kudos to you for reaching out and seeking answers—it's super important to be informed, especially when dealing with a condition that can sometimes feel like it's got too many question marks around it. Let's tackle your questions one by one.

  • Labiaplasty & Herpes Risk: Smart move on starting antivirals as a precaution. Surgical procedures in areas prone to herpes outbreaks can potentially provoke an outbreak due to the stress on the tissue. But, since you've been upfront with your surgeon—that's fantastic. It reduces the risk because they can ensure the procedure is as gentle as possible on the tissue and can avoid the outbreak area. Spreading to other genital sites due to the surgery is not a typical complication, especially if you're not having an active outbreak. The key will be to monitor closely post-op and continue those antivirals as your doctor advises.
  • Oral Sex Safety: Good news here. If you've got genital herpes and you're giving oral sex, you're not going to transmit genital herpes to your partner's genitals. Genital herpes affects your, well, genitals, and it's not going to jump from there to your mouth just because you're engaging in oral play. Of course, if you ever do experience any kind of sores or symptoms orally, then there is a risk of passing it to your partner (which would be a risk you would share with the majority of the world since the overwhelming majority of the world gets cold sores).
  • Fingering, Touching, & Transmission: Daily antivirals and no active outbreak significantly reduce the risk of transmission, but it's never zero. If you're on suppressive therapy and you have no signs of an outbreak, the risk is quite low for your partner to contract herpes from non-penetrative activities. Regarding him touching himself afterward, the virus doesn't survive long on the skin, especially not on hands that are likely to be much drier and tougher than mucous membranes. Washing hands after intimate contact is always a good practice, for multiple reasons, and would reduce that already low risk even further.

Remember, this is all based on the general medical consensus, but everyone's situation can have its own nuances, so staying in close contact with your healthcare provider is the best way to navigate this.

Herpes is indeed wrapped in unnecessary stigma, but remember—you're managing it, you're taking precautions, and you're being responsible. That's commendable and nothing short of what anyone should expect in terms of sexual health management. Props to you!

Wishing you all the best with your surgery and journey forward!

Note: This is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis.
I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

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  • mr_hopp changed the title to Labiaplasty, oral sex, and herpes transmission risk?

Thank you for your response @mr_hopp it is much appreciated, and such a good community where we can ask questions where we couldn’t otherwise. 
Perhaps you can clear something up for me - what is considered an active outbreak? It is the actual sores appearing? Sometimes even on the antivirals I get the pain and/or tingling in the outbreak site, but never get the bumps. Is the ringing/pain considered an OB, or pre OB, and higher risk of transmission?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi @Struggling

I believe an active outbreak is when you have open sores or lesions. The pain/tingling or itchiness could be prodrome symptoms.  Prodrome symptoms can include itching or tingling in the area where outbreaks usually occur, or a pain down the back of the leg or in the buttocks (with genital outbreaks). Sometimes, prodrome symptoms will show up but a full outbreak won't happen.

I think you are shedding the virus more from the start of the prodrome symptoms to the end of the active outbreak.  The transmission rate will obviously be more during the active outbreak than the prodrome symptoms but the fact that you are taking the antiviral meds daily reduces the risk even more.   Its hard to tell when the prodrome symptoms start because I always feel like I have something going on that never really amounts to anything so I hope that's kinda helpful.  

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