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HPV and pregnancy

HPV can cause genital warts, but there's no evidence these warts or HPV can affect a woman's fertility.

It is important that obstetricians and midwifes know about HPV.

Pregnancy can cause more genital warts to appear, or increase in size. In many cases, these can be treated safely during pregnancy.

There is a small risk of HPV being passed to a baby during a vaginal delivery.

Pregnancy with HPV

No link has been found between HPV and miscarriage, premature delivery, or other pregnancy complications.

Also, the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby is considered very low.

If a pregnant woman tests positive for the high-risk types of HPV associated with cervical cancer, the doctor will monitor her during the pregnancy to watch for cervical tissue changes.

In some pregnant women with HPV, the tissue changes may increase during pregnancy. If possible, doctors postpone treatment because it may lead to premature labour.

If a pregnant woman has genital warts, the doctor will monitor to see if the warts get larger. Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause the warts to multiply or get larger. Sometimes the warts will bleed.

Depending on the extent of the warts, the doctor may postpone treatment until after childbirth. However, if the warts get so big that they might cause an obstruction in the vagina, they may need to be removed before childbirth.

Genital warts can be removed surgically, with chemical treatment, or with painless electric current.

HPV and childbirth

The risk of HPV transmission to the baby is very low. Even if babies do get the HPV virus, their bodies usually clear the virus on their own.

Most of the time, a baby born to a woman with genital warts does not have HPV-related complications. In very rare cases, a baby born to a woman who has genital warts will develop warts in the throat. This serious condition is called respiratory papillomatosis and requires frequent laser surgery to prevent the warts from blocking the baby's breathing passages.

Even if the mother has a type of HPV virus that is associated with cervical cancer, the baby can be delivered safely.

Experts disagree about the value of a caesarean section in trying to prevent HPV transmission from mother to newborn baby. Some say it could offer some protection against HPV for the baby. However, because babies rarely get HPV during childbirth -- and can clear the infection on their own -- the risks of surgery don't outweigh the possible benefit, according to some experts.

Managing HPV after childbirth

If a smear test was abnormal during pregnancy, the doctor will probably do another test a few weeks after childbirth. Sometimes, the cervical cell changes go away after childbirth and no treatment is needed.

Sometimes, genital warts also go away. If not, the doctor may recommend treatment after childbirth.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 05, 2014

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