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HPV and Pregnancy

It is natural for a woman to have pregnancy concerns because she naturally wants the best for her unborn child. HPV is a fairly common concern for pregnant women because the virus is a sexually transmitted disease that is linked with cervical cancer. Because many of the strains of HPV have no symptoms, pregnant women can be worried that they have the virus without knowing it. Also, most women don't know what, if any, effect HPV has on pregnancy, the fetus or the birth.

Many women are concerned about the implications of HPV and pregnancy, especially if they are aware that they have been infected with HPV at some stage in their lives. Because HPV is such a common virus and very contagious, it is likely that a high percentage of pregnant women will have been infected with the virus. However, it has been shown that HPV has no adverse effect on the developing fetus and prenatal care does not need to be any different than with a normal pregnancy.

Women who have had regular Pap tests can be confident that these tests would have shown the presence of HPV and that they have been screened for the virus. Most doctors also take a sample for a Pap smear at the first prenatal visit, so if this doesn't come back with a positive result, you can safely assume you don't have the virus.

If you know that you have had HPV in the past or have had genital warts at any time, you should tell your doctor so that you can be monitored for any developments during your pregnancy. The mother's immune system is suppressed during pregnancy, which leaves her susceptible to viral infections more than normal; it is possible that latent HPV symptoms could appear at this time.

Here is a summary of the possible implications of HPV in pregnancy:

  • Currently, there is no link between HPV and miscarriage or a premature delivery.

  • It appears that HPV does not cause any complications during pregnancy.

  • If you have genital warts when you become pregnant, your doctor will just monitor their possible growth during your pregnancy. You go through a range of hormonal changes during your pregnancy which may cause the genital warts to increase in size and number. Usually, treatment or removal of the warts is delayed until after you give birth, except in extreme and rare cases.

  • If your doctor thinks that your genital warts could interfere with the delivery process by obstructing the vagina or cervix, they can be safely removed by surgical means or by laser or cauterization. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

  • The risk of transmitting HPV to your baby is low. In most cases, if the baby is infected with the virus, their own immune system clears it from their system.

  • In extremely rare cases, the virus can cause respiratory papillomavirus in the baby which is a more serious form of HPV, where warts grow on the throat or respiratory tract. I stress that this is very rare.

  • There are two schools of thought about the wisdom of Caesarean section as a way to prevent HPV transferring to the baby during labor. Some doctors believe it a valid strategy while others believe that, because the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby during birth is so low, the risks of surgery outweigh the potential risk of HPV infection.

However, statistics show that the majority of pregnant women, who have had HPV or genital warts, have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated delivery. Most women, who have the virus through pregnancy, likewise experience no difficulties.

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