HPV and pregnancy may greatly affect the health and well-being of the new-born because most cases of HPV shows no conspicuous symptoms, remains undiagnosed in expecting moms and as such, no treatment or precaution is administered throughout pregnancy or during childbirth.
HPV refers to Human Papilloma Virus, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted disease in United States and all over the world with about 75% of all adult men and women having at least one episode of HPV in their lifetime.
HPV infection is mostly contracted during unprotected anal or vaginal sexual intercourse and sometimes by oral intercourse too (when a woman has oral sex with genitals that is actively infected with HPV or vice versa).
HPV and pregnancy combined constitute a great danger to the baby particularly during vaginal delivery through infected birth canal.
Usually, HPV shows no symptoms but when it becomes prolonged, within a year of infection with HPV, about 60% individuals develop genital warts and cervical cell irregularities as the first symptoms of HPV infection. These warts may appear anywhere along the genital tract; however cervix and vagina are the commonest sites in the case of vaginal intercourse, and anal mucosa in case of anal intercourse.
Long standing HPV infection of cervix may also degenerate into cervical cancer. Luckily however most HPV infections remain localized and don’t lead to significant changes in the genetic structure of cells and are therefore eventually cleared-off on their own by the body’s immune system within 2-6 months.
Prolonged HPV infection may lead to cancer or pre-cancer state in cervix. In the presence of full blown cervical cancer it’s not recommended to conceive or give birth to a baby. Similarly, after the surgery of localized cervical cancer, chances of conceptions are greatly decreased due to scarring of tubes and reproductive tracts.
In vast majority of cases, HPV infection doesn’t interfere with the progression of pregnancy or affect the health of the baby. However, in case you’ve an active HPV infection that degenerated into genital warts, your child may contract HPV infection during delivery to the extent that may cause active lesions or warts in the respiratory tract and vocal cords of your baby.
Although such infection to your baby is a life-threatening situation that may lead to neonatal death, it’s a complication that rarely occurs and hardly seen in clinical setting.
It’s been observed that HPV infection aggravates during pregnancy, which is most commonly attributed to the fact that pregnancy provides conditions of ideal vaginal temperature and pH level that foster the growth and multiplication of virus.
It’s not safe to treat HPV infection during pregnancy mostly because anti-viral drugs are toxic to fetal growth and development. As well, in cases where cervical irregularities or abnormalities were found during examination by your doctor, cervical biopsies for removing such cells are usually carried-out after you’ve delivered your baby. Most doctors prefer to treat HPV infection as soon as the infected pregnant mom gives birth especially if the extensive genital warts are involved.
However, in some cases HPV and pregnancy poses a great threat to the health of the baby (mostly during third trimester active HPV lesions that increases chances of a baby getting infected during childbirth). In any such case, you’ve a number of options to protect your child from active HPV during pregnancy.
Your healthcare provider may use liquid nitrogen to treat your active lesions and can also perform electric-cautery to destroy the genital warts without affecting pregnancy progression. Untreated lesions or poorly responsive lesions may also be treated by surgical excision or laser therapy.
There are a few tips that greatly eliminate your chances of contracting HPV infection especially during pregnancy. These are:
Ideally, if you have a dangerous sexual lifestyle, it is better you ascertain your HPV status before getting pregnant to avoid problems associated with HPV and pregnancy.