What is the Connection Between Hepatitis C and Sex?

Sarah Sullins

There is thought to be a relatively low connection between hepatitis C and sex. Transmission can occur, but only if blood to blood contact is involved. Behaviors such as rough sex, not using a condom, and having sex with multiple partners can increase the risk of a person passing the virus to someone else.

The hepatitis C virus can also be passed from mother to child via breast feeding.
The hepatitis C virus can also be passed from mother to child via breast feeding.

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that results in inflammation of a person’s liver and can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, cirrhosis, or even death. A person with the virus can spread it to others through blood contact. For this reason, it is mainly spread by the sharing of needles, toothbrushes, razors, and occasionally there is a link between hepatitis C and sex. Before testing was required of donated blood, some people obtained the virus through blood transfusions. The virus can also be passed from mother to child through birth or breast feeding.

Testing blood was once not required for blood transfusions, which spread Hepatitis C to unknowing recipients.
Testing blood was once not required for blood transfusions, which spread Hepatitis C to unknowing recipients.

A person with hepatitis C will generally not have any symptoms at all. He may not know he has this particular infection until medical tests are done to test for it. If symptoms of the infection do develop, a person may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, soreness of the muscles, diarrhea, fever, and loss of appetite. Some other symptoms that may occur include jaundice, depression, stomach pains, and dark brown urine. Hepatitis viruses can be long-term and can be transmitted even without the presence of any symptoms.

Having multiple partners can increase the risk of passing Hepatitis C to another person.
Having multiple partners can increase the risk of passing Hepatitis C to another person.

Reducing the connection between hepatitis C and sex will generally include eliminating certain behaviors that may increase the chances of transmission. Most medical professionals recommend that people with hepatitis C do not have sex while either person is bleeding. Any blisters, breaks in the skin, or cuts in the area of the genitals or in a person’s mouth will increase the risk of a connection between hepatitis C and sex. If a woman is on her menstrual cycle, the risk also increases, and a couple should not have sex.

Some at-home STD tests screen for hepatitis C.
Some at-home STD tests screen for hepatitis C.

Using condoms may help prevent transmission as well. Although condoms may not be needed if a couple is monogamous, they will provide extra protection for those who have multiple partners. Condoms can also protect a person during anal sex, though this type of sex is not recommended for those who have the virus. If a couple does decide to have anal sex, they should both be careful and use condoms and lubrication to help to reduce the connection between hepatitis C and sex.

Condoms may not be necessary for a monogamous couple, but they will provide extra protection against Hepatitis C.
Condoms may not be necessary for a monogamous couple, but they will provide extra protection against Hepatitis C.
Using a condom during sex can help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
Using a condom during sex can help prevent the spread of hepatitis C.

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