Incubation periods

Every STD has an incubation period. The incubation period of a venereal disease is the time that elapses between the infection and the first clinical signs of the venereal disease. So the incubation period tells you when you can test for STDs. Please be patient and do not test until the incubation period is over!

Every STD has an incubation period. The incubation period of a venereal disease is the time that elapses between the infection and the first clinical signs of the venereal disease. So the incubation period tells you when you can test for STDs. Please be patient and do not test until the incubation period is over!

Overview incubation periods

Chlamydia14 days
Gonorrhoea14 days
Mycoplasma genitalium28 days
Trichomonas21 days
Syphilis10 – 90 days
HIV30 -90 days
Hepatitis B90 days
Herpes4 days
Pubic lice2 – 14 days

When to test for STDs?

Once the incubation period has passed, you can reliably test for STDs. If you take a test before that, there is a risk that the bacteria, virus or antibody is not yet found, causing you to test a false negative. If you want to know when you can test for which STD, read the explanation below of which period must elapse for each STD.

The incubation period says nothing about the risk you have run. If you are unsure which test to take, use our test guide.

Did you know? There is no point in testing before the incubation period has expired! The test will not be reliable, and you have to test again. So please be patient, as difficult as this is.

Chlamydia – 14 days

If you have contracted Chlamydia during unprotected sex, you will not always notice this. There are two complaints that can mean you have this STD: discharge from the vagina or penis, or a burning sensation when urinating. These complaints can manifest themselves up to six weeks after sex. In the meantime, you already have Chlamydia and you can infect others. Because the incubation period is 14 days, you can get tested for this venereal disease after that period.

Gonorrhoea – 14 days

In the case of Gonorrhoea too, not everyone notices that he or she is ill. The complaints caused by this STD can be noticeable after two days. This concerns discharge from the penis or vagina or a burning sensation when urinating. Women in particular experience these complaints less, or they notice it less. It also appears in men that if the Gonorrhoea bacteria is in the throat or anus, this is often not noticed. In the case of Gonorrhoea, men who have had homosexual contact and women are therefore the largest risk groups.

Mycoplasma – 28 days

The complaints also often do not occur in the case of Mycoplasma. Complaints? Then these are very similar to those of Chlamydia. To determine Mycoplasma genitalium, it is therefore necessary to test. You cannot take the test until 28 days after you had unsafe sex for the last time.

Trichomonas – 21 days

Men usually do not notice they have Trichomonas. After a while, in the case of men, this venereal disease spontaneously disappears. However, during the time men are infected, they can transmit it. Women can develop symptoms and must be treated for them. These complaints include a burning or painful sensation when urinating, pain when having sex, or vaginal discharge. The incubation period is more than three weeks and after that time, you can have yourself tested by your GP or Municipal Health Service (GGD).

Syphilis – 90 days

This STD goes through three different phases. The first phase in particular is often not noticed. There are different complaints for each phase. From three months, it is possible to have a test at the general practitioner or GGD. Syphilis has become more and more common in recent years, albeit mainly among risk groups.

HIV – 30 to 90 days

HIV is an STD with a relatively long incubation period. Only after 30 to even 90 days can infection with the virus be definitively established. After four weeks, it is often possible to have yourself tested, but this depends on the test used. If HIV does not turn into AIDS, there will be hardly any noticeable symptoms. Risk groups recommended for testing are men who have unprotected homosexual contact. Men or women who have had unprotected sex with people from some African countries are also more at risk.

Hepatitis B – 90 days

In the case of Hepatitis B, 60% of all infected people experience no complaints. When they do experience complaints, they are nausea, loss of appetite, grey stools or dark urine. The length of the incubation period differs greatly from person to person. In most cases, it is possible to get tested after 90 days. It is also possible to get vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Herpes – 4 days

Herpes is a common, but relatively harmless STD. When you are infected by the Herpes virus, complaints will not immediately arise. Because there are different forms of Herpes, each form has its own incubation period. Herpes type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) cause both oral herpes and genital herpes. In the case of oral herpes, complaints such as infections (vesicles) can occur in the mouth, on the face or around the lips. In the case of genital herpes, blisters and sores occur around the genitals. The average incubation period of these two forms of Herpes is four days, but can vary between two and 12 days.

Pubic lice – 2 to 14 days

Pubic lice are characterised by itching in the pubic area. In addition, the lice are sometimes visible in the pubic hair. You can get these complaints after two days. However, the incubation period can also be two weeks after having unprotected sex. Your doctor can help you with a cream that solves the problem.

Approved by M.D. Annelies Lucas

General practitioner and medical director. Worked as a general practitioner for 25 years, obtained a PhD at the University of Maastricht and was the medical director of Diagnostiek voor U from 2011 to 2020.

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