Genital warts and pregnancy is not an ideal combination for the safe and healthy delivery of any baby and thus any such infection must be treated promptly before conception to avoid any complications. Although the risk of transmission is not very high with genital warts and pregnancy at the same time, but having a sexually transmitted infection is a dangerous indicator that you’re prone to other sexually transmitted infections, which may harm your baby.
The most common agent for genital infections in the world is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and funny enough; most women who are infected with it never knew they are. However, some previously normal women also develop active lesions for the first time during pregnancy. This is attributed to low immunity, hormonal changes and abundant vaginal discharge that favors the growth of Human Papilloma Virus in genital tract.
The infection with Human Papilloma Virus is normally contracted during physical intercourse with an infected person (virus is transmitted via genital secretions). Although rare, but in some cases infection is also contracted during oral sex and by mere touching of genitals.
In most cases, genital warts resolve without any treatment; however they recur at intervals unless treated by proper anti-viral therapy. Although there are 36 strains of HPV that cause infections in human, but the strain 16 and 18 are considered high risk as these are associated with an elevated risk of cervical cancer and any women who test positive for HPV infection must go for regular pap smear to detect early dysplastic changes .
In most recent infections, there are no obvious sign and symptoms that may point to the diagnosis until warts develop. However, when genital warts appear, the lesions are very contagious. Genital warts may appear anywhere along the genital tract but most common locations are vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, rectum and skin around the groin area. These warts are of variable shapes, sizes and appearance that are mostly painless but it may burn, bleed or itch occasionally.
Active HPV infection doesn’t affect the growth and development of your baby in most cases. Even if you have active infection at the time of labor, chances are fair that your baby remains unaffected by the virus. On the contrary, the genital warts become aggravated or more active because they are pregnant. In extremely rare cases, some babies may contract the virus and present recurrent episodes of painful warts in the respiratory passage-ways.
Besides the fact that genital warts don’t affect the growth and development of growing baby, it may affect the health of expecting mom in a few cases. For example, genital warts may enlarge significantly to either block the vaginal canal or interfere with urination. The risk of bleeding is minimal with small warts but if the lesion increases significantly in size, bleeding or infection may also occur.
There are no clear recommendations for the testing of HPV infection during pregnancy, but all the women who have the combination of genital warts and pregnancy, must be tested for HPV during pregnancy. Moreover a routine Pap smear or cervical examination can be conducted to detect any possible cervical cell irregularities from HPV strains.
Ideally most healthcare providers avoid treating genital warts during pregnancy as most warts disappear on their own within 6-10 months or sooner after childbirth. However, if anyone who experience genital warts and pregnancy wants to have her active warts removed during pregnancy, a variety of methods are available:
Cyrotherapy is a method by which lesion is allowed to freeze by the use of liquid agent. Genital warts can also be managed by burning the lesion with acidic agents that is safe to be performed during pregnancy. Other possible options are LEEP and laser methods but it’s better to wait for the delivery in order to manage genital warts by laser method.
The HPV vaccine for women of reproductive age under 26 helps to prevent HPV infection but it’s not recommended at any time during pregnancy.
Importantly, genital warts and pregnancy isn’t an indication for cesarean section but if the lesions are present in birth canal, this may be an ideal option.
Finally, practicing safe sex and sticking to your partner is the best way to prevent re-infection with genital warts and other sexually transmitted diseases during pregnancy.
Those who read this, also read about Genital Herpes during Pregnancy.