Pregnancy and the Human Papillomavirus: What You Need to Know

Though many people eliminate the human papillomavirus naturally and without major complications, its presence during pregnancy requires more care and attention.
Pregnancy and the Human Papillomavirus: What You Need to Know

Last update: 16 October, 2018

Specialists estimate that approximately 200 different types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) exist. Of these, 40 are transmitted sexually and affect the genitals. A great number of people who catch the HPV virus eliminate it without suffering long-term consequences.

However, the relationship between the human papillomavirus and pregnancy can be a cause for concern. Learn more about the factors related to this virus and its possible risks for pregnancy below.

What exactly is the human papillomavirus?

The HPV virus is a very common sexually transmitted disease among sexually active individuals. It appears in the form of genital warts and can lead to cancer in some cases. The disease spreads through oral, vaginal or anal sexual contact with an infected person.

In general, this illness doesn’t show signs that indicate its presence within an infected body. Just the same, over time, a person who has contracted the human papillomavirus may display the following symptoms:

  • The presence of warts in and around the genitals, anus, rectum, vulva, scrotum and groin, though they can also spread to other areas. These warts may be flat, small, large, or have a cauliflower type appearance.
  • In women, the HPV virus may produce alterations in the uterine wall. These alterations may disappear or they may lead to consequences such as cancer.
Pregnancy and the Human Papillomavirus: What You Need to Know

The HPV virus and pregnancy: Is there a risk?

If you suffer from the human papillomavirus and you’re pregnant, the size and number of existing warts may increase. This is due to the fact that it can decrease your body’s defenses. It also has to do with increased vaginal secretions.

It’s unlikely that the virus will affect the normal development of your pregnancy. But, that being said, there will always be a small chance of passing the virus onto our little one.

General considerations regarding the human papillomavirus and pregnancy

It’s critical that you tell your OB/GYN if you have or have had genital warts caused by the HPV virus. This way, your doctor can control the possible progression of the disease in order to impede its development. You should also take the following into consideration:

  • You can have a test done to diagnose possible lesions.
  • As long as you don’t have a large amount of warts that obstruct your birth canal, you can opt for vaginal birthOtherwise, you’ll need to have a C-section.
  • If the human papillomavirus is present during pregnancy, you’ll simply need to keep it under control. The warts may disappear after you give birth.
  • Your doctor may decide to remove the warts through very non-invasive techniques that won’t affect your pregnancy. He or she can also evaluate the progress of the warts through a colposcopy.
  • Avoid using special lotions and other products designed to remove warts.

What can happen if the baby becomes infected with the virus?

While this is very unlikely, if a baby contracts the human papillomavirus, his or her body will eliminate the infection naturally.

Pregnancy and the Human Papillomavirus: What You Need to Know

There are some extreme cases in which the baby may present fleshy tumors in his or her throat. This condition is known as laryngeal papillomatosis. If so, the baby will require laser treatment which will remove the growths and clear your child’s airway for breathing.

“HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease among sexually active individuals”

Prevention of the human papillomavirus

Prevention is the best way to care for your health. To avoid the spread of this virus, it’s best to follow the following suggestions:

  • Limit sexual contact to only one partner, as long as your partner does the same thing.
  • Use latex condoms. This considerably reduces the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Get the HPV vaccine with the consent of your doctor after your baby is born. There are two types of vaccines that are effective against the most common high-risk HPV strains – types 16 and 18.

To conclude, the union of the HPV virus and pregnancy doesn’t pose any major risks for mother and baby. Just the same, there’s a greater risk of contracting the virus during pregnancy.

If your immune system is strong, you should be able to eliminate the infection. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself and effectively prevent this disease.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Carrillo, F. J. O., de Regil, D. B. G., & Jiménez, M. T. V. (2015). Infección por virus del papiloma humano en mujeres y su prevención. Gaceta Mexicana de Oncología14(3), 157-163.
  • Castillo, H. K., de los Ángeles Caro, V., Blanco, M. G., Acosta, L., Correnti, M., & Suárez, J. (2015). Papilomatosis laríngea juvenil y su relación con la infección genital por virus de papiloma humano durante el embarazo. Rev Obstet Ginecol Venez75(4), 260-268.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.