HPV and Pregnancy
Clinical genital HPV infections (which are
visible HPV infections with warts) during pregnancy can cause complications for
the mother and the unborn baby.
During pregnancy a woman’s immune system is naturally suppressed, making the woman more vulnerable to infections. This means that the pregnant woman’s body can’t as effectively fight off the HPV strains. For this reason, genital warts in pregnant women tend to be larger and more numerous.
HPV and Delivery
Sometimes the warts can get so large that they block the birth canal making a vaginal birth impossible. If this happens, a caesarean section is usually needed to deliver the baby. This is done for the safety of the baby and the comfort of the mother. If the baby were to be born through a birth canal blocked with warts, excessive bleeding could occur when the baby’s head put pressure on the warts. Excessive bleeding puts the mother’s health at risk, and might increase the chance of the baby getting infected with the HPV virus.
Women who have small genital warts in their
birth canals can often still have a safe vaginal delivery. The risk of bleeding
is low. The chance of the HPV infection spreading to the baby is also extremely
low, at 0.04 percent. This means only about 300 babies in the United States are
infected each year from their mothers’ birth canals.
HPV and the Baby
Most women infected with genital HPV can go
on to deliver healthy babies with no complications brought on by the genital
warts. Genital warts don’t cause miscarriages. Neither can they be transmitted
through the mother’s blood to the unborn baby, although some tests have shown
that the virus does appear in the amniotic fluid.
Sometimes, but very rarely, a baby can be infected when he or she passes through the birth canal. If this happens, the baby can get an HPV infection called laryngeal papillomatosis.
If caught early enough after infection, laryngeal papillomatosis is easily treated. Diagnosis in young children is usually done through a visual inspection of the voicebox with a mirror. The warts often need to be surgically removed, but can easily recur especially during the first three years of life. Full remission is possible.
HPV Treatment in Pregnancy
It is important for a woman with HPV to
take care of herself during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones can cause the warts
to grow large very quickly because of the weakened immune system every woman
gets during pregnancy.
Regular pap smears and examinations are important to keep track of the size and speed of the growths. If the growths are large, a pregnant woman can get them removed. Most doctors suggest that pregnant women get the warts removed surgically since this appears to be the method that would least harm the baby. Topical treatments and even freezing the warts off is discouraged by many doctors because they believe that those types of treatments can increase the risk of premature labor.
Women who are infected with HPV and want to get pregnant again (or for the first time) can do so without complications as long as they seek proper prenatal medical help.
This page was last updated:
June 19, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.