How Can HPV Affect Your Pregnancy?

HPV OB/GYN Dr. Richard Bardowell,

It’s perfectly normal to worry that human papillomavirus (HPV) may harm your unborn child or affect you negatively during pregnancy. The virus causes more than 6 million new infections each year. Currently, nearly 80 million Americans are infected with HPV, and some of them are pregnant. Although HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer, in most cases it will not affect you and your baby during pregnancy. If you have HPV and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, discuss your concerns with your obstetrician.

HPV infection

Having HPV can seem scary, but rest assured that it is a common infection that in most cases is harmless. In fact, HPV usually goes away on its own. As is the case with many other viruses, the immune system fights HPV and often succeeds in getting rid of it. However, there are many types of HPV, and certain types can sometimes stick around. When HPV lingers, it can cause changes to cervical cells that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.

That’s why it’s vital to visit your OB/GYN for regular well-woman checks. Women who have routine Pap smears rarely develop cervical cancer. Pap smears are highly sensitive and can catch abnormal changes to cervical cells before they have a chance to develop into cancer.

HPV and premature birth and low birth rate

When women with HPV have an abnormal Pap smear, it is sometimes necessary to remove cervical tissue containing the abnormal cells. This helps protect you from cervical cancer. If you’ve had large amounts of cervical tissue removed because of an HPV infection, it can impact your pregnancy.

Women who have had a significant amount of cervical tissue removed are at risk for delivering their baby prematurely. Babies born prematurely are more likely to have health issues compared to babies born full-term. A premature birth is one that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The earlier you go into labor and deliver the baby, the higher the risk of complications.

Genital warts

Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, and it’s possible to pass genital warts to your baby during a vaginal birth. If this happens, it can cause serious complications for your newborn, including breathing difficulties and developmental disabilities. Talk to Dr. Richard Bardowell if you’ve had genital warts in the past or have them now and you’re pregnant. Dr. Bardowell can remove the warts before you give birth. A Cesarean section may be necessary to protect you and the baby.

HPV and fertility

If you’re trying to get pregnant and you have HPV, you should know that having a gynecological infection may make it more difficult to become pregnant and stay pregnant. HPV can cause scarring and blockages of the Fallopian tubes, making it more challenging to conceive. However, keep in mind that most cases of HPV clear up on their own, and having HPV doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll experience fertility issues. Discuss your concerns with Dr. Bardowell.

Women with HPV can and do have healthy pregnancies and deliveries. If you have HPV or any condition that may impact your ability to carry a child, it’s important to discuss the risks with your doctor. Your provider will monitor you closely to help ensure that you have the healthiest, safest possible pregnancy.

For more information and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bardowell, call our Burbank, California office, or book your appointment online at your convenience.

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