HPV and Pregnancy – What You Should Know
One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, affects approximately three quarters of sexually active men and women. Many of these people will never know they even have the virus as it often does not display any symptoms, and it can clear up on its own. It is highly contagious and generally passed on through sexually intercourse. This clearly poses health issues for anybody unaware of their partner’s sexual background. A simple solution to protect yourself and your partner is to take part in regular STD testing. Any symptoms that develop take the form of genital warts. These can be found anywhere on the body that comes into contact with an infected person, areas including the vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, thighs and groin. It is possible for a mother to pass the virus on to her baby, although this is rare. HPV treatment is available but like anything prevention is better than the cure.
There are more than thirty different types of HPV that can cause you to develop genital warts. Some strains cause changes in the cells in the cervix, and these are considered more high risk strains as they are the cause of most cervical cancers. It is important for women to have regular pap smears because if these abnormal cells are detected early then they can be treated before they become cancerous. Generally most women are free of the virus within about two years from when they are diagnosed and properly treated.
Can pregnancy be affected?
There is no need to panic if you develop HPV while pregnant, nor do you need to worry that having genital warts will stop you from getting pregnant. The virus is unlikely to affect your pregnancy or harm the baby. The warts themselves can grow faster and bigger during pregnancy, but this is due to the increase of hormones in your system. The area can also be a lot more moist while you are pregnant, due to an increase in vaginal discharge, and warts grow more in this type of environment. Your immune system undergoes changes while you are pregnant and this can affect your bodies ability to fight off the virus. It is rare that your baby will develop the virus, but it can be passed on and the baby can develop warts on their vocal chords when they are a baby or during childhood. This, however, is quite rare.
Tests against HPV
Pregnant women are not routinely tested for HPV, although the virus may be detected if you undergo a pap smear. If a pap smear shows any changes you can be tested to see if you have any of the high risk strains.
HPV and pregnancy
There is no cure for the virus but the symptoms can be treated and dealt with effectively. The doctor may decide to leave them while you are pregnant and treat the warts once you have had your baby. Often warts can get better by themselves without treatment and they can even disappear after childbirth or after a period of time. There are safe treatments you can use whilst pregnant, including freezing with liquid nitrogen, laser removal, surgery or removal with an electrical current. It is not recommended that you use pharmacy treatments that you apply yourself while pregnant. There is a vaccine for HPV that you could have once you have had the baby. Regular testing for STDs, responsible sex and early detection is key in fighting HPV. Always consult a qualified professional when deciding on any treatment and ensure to be frank and clear about your sex life.