Herpes and Your Menstrual Cycle

by Charlotte Grayson, M.D. Health Professional

Bloating, irritable mood, pelvic pain or pressure. All are common signs that your monthly period is coming soon. And for many women, this monthly visitor brings a VERY unwanted guest: genital herpes outbreaks.

It may seem like insult to injury, but several studies have confirmed that the menstrual period is one of the most common triggers of a herpes outbreak - stress being the most common trigger.

But you don't have to suffer with a full blown herpes outbreak with your menstrual period. If you can recognize and treat the outbreak within 6 hours, you can stop or shorten the outbreak.

That's why is so important to be in tune with your body and KNOW what an outbreak feels like in its earliest hours. And why you MUST ask your doctor for a prescription that you can hold for use during an outbreak.

For some, a herpes outbreak starts as a burning or tingling sensation, or a numbness or pain in the genital area (vagina, vulva, penis, scrotum) or buttocks. Others experience swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills and headache. Still others may feel pain or burning in one leg, or the bottom of one foot.

You can almost always stop or shorten an outbreak with early recognition and treatment of the outbreak. And the treatment - two doses of antivirals in a single day - is easier than ever.

But, again, the key is to catch the symptoms within 6 hours.Therefore, anyone with herpes should ask their doctor for a standing prescription to fill when an outbreak starts.

While menses MAY trigger a herpes outbreaks, the opposite is NOT true. Menstrual periods do NOT change when you have herpes. I have seen several women with this misperception who had menstrual irregularities and failed to bring them to my attention quickly because they assumed it was related to their herpes.

If you have herpes, and you are missing your period, or it's changed in some way, talk to your doctor. It is NOT herpes related.

If you are having heavier or more frequent periods, talk to your doctor. It is NOT herpes related.

In young women, a missed period can be normal or it may be related to her contraceptives. In other cases, it signals pregnancy. In older ladies, it can be part of perimenopause or menopause. And there are other rarer but concerning medical problems that can cause missed or altered menstrual cycles. Your doctor can determine if you need to be evaluated for those.

Heavy or more frequent periods too can be related to birth control, or perimenopause/menopause. But it can also be caused by fibroid tumors of the uterus and other more serious problems. And heavy menses can cause anemia, so it's important to have this problem, if present, evaluated.

Charlotte Grayson, M.D.
Meet Our Writer
Charlotte Grayson, M.D.

Charlotte Grayson, M.D., is an internist in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. She is a 1995 graduate of Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency in 1998 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Previously, Dr. Grayson was Senior Medical Editor for a leading healthcare content company. She frequently speaks to the media about health, appearing on Fox News and CNN and contributing to TIME, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and WebMD magazines.