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Sexual conditions health centre

Genital warts - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Without any treatment, genital warts can clear up, get bigger, or stay the same size. What happens to you depends partly on whether you have any other health problems.

Genital warts can clear up on their own as your immune system fights off the virus. But this can take many months or years.[2] If you have a weak immune system (doctors say you are immunocompromised), you might not get rid of the warts so easily.[4] Things that can weaken your immune system include:

  • Having HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection or AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)

  • Having a transplant

  • Having cancer or some treatments for cancer.

Genital warts often come back several months after you've had treatment to get rid of them. This is more likely to happen if your immune system is weak. There's also a very small risk that genital warts could become cancer if your immune system is not working as well as it should, although this is very rare.[2]

Genital warts and pregnancy

Genital warts sometimes grow larger during pregnancy.[14] This can make passing urine difficult. Or if the warts are inside your vagina, they can cause problems during birth. This is because they can make your vagina narrower and less elastic.[14]

There is also a very small chance that if you have genital warts while you're pregnant, your child could get a condition called laryngeal papillomatosis. This is when warts grow inside the voice box (larynx) or the air passages that lead from the nose into the lungs. It's not clear whether a child gets the virus while the mother is pregnant, during birth, or after birth.

If genital warts are blocking your vagina or there's a risk that they will bleed a lot during labour, your doctor might advise you to have a caesarean.[2] But there's no evidence that having a caesarean reduces the risk of passing the virus to your baby.

Some treatments for genital warts are safe to use during pregnancy. But creams and other treatments that you put on warts might not work so well during pregnancy. Also, your genital warts might clear up on their own after you have your baby and your immune system recovers. So it might be worth waiting a while before you decide to have treatment.

Last Updated: July 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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