Each year, there are more and more people who are given a positive HPV diagnosis. Most people who are given a new diagnosis, don’t understand or aren’t aware of some of the potential consequences of having such a diagnosis. HPV is now understood to be the most common of all sexually transmitted infections. It is estimated that almost all sexually active individuals will have been infected with a strain of HPV at some point during their lifetime. Having said that, most of these strains of HPV are cleared by the immune system and won’t cause any health problems. There are, however, some strains of HPV that can cause problems like genital warts. There are also a few higher risk HPV strains that can potentially cause cervical cancer. This is a concern for women who are pregnant or for those that are considering becoming pregnant in the future.
What can women do if they are planning a pregnancy?
One of the most important things women can do is to get a regular pap test. While there are many strains of HPV, there are only two high-risk strains that have the potential to cause cervical cancer. A diagnosis of a high-risk strain or cervical cancer is a serious complication for women’s fertility and pregnancies. The good news is that most women never reach the cervical cancer stage because they have pap tests that detect cell progression in its early stages and go on to have preventative measures. It is recommended that all women stick to their pap smear schedule, which is currently once every three years. This helps to keep track of the cells in your cervix. For those who have already have a pap smear with abnormal cells, the frequency of pap tests increases.
If you are pregnant, it is not recommended to take supplements other than ones that are designed for pregnancy. This is because of issues like too much vitamin A causing problems for unborn foetuses. You should always consult your midwife or healthcare practitioner to discuss supplements.
If you are trying to conceive and are wanting to fight off HPV, you can still use supplements like Papillex as long as you stop them when you get pregnant.
HPV in your medical history
If you have had HPV in the past, you need to let your doctor know when you get pregnant. You will need to say what the issues were with the infection, for example, whether or not your got genital warms or had an abnormal pap test. You also need to disclose if you had surgery to your cervix. This is because pregnancy causes cells to change more rapidly so doctors will need to monitor pregnant women with a history of HPV more closely.
What about if you are already pregnant?
Pregnant women have pap screens following current guidelines. Pregnancy won’t stop the frequency of your pap tests although they are not routinely performed when you are pregnant due to the sensitivity of the cervix and the changes it goes through during pregnancy. If you have never had any abnormal pap tests, it is likely that you will be clear until the pregnancy is over so you don’t need to worry.
The vast majority of pregnancies end at full term without complications. Babies born to carriers of HPV show no signs or symptoms of infection and are born healthy. There have been no links found between HPV and the occurrence of miscarriage, nor premature delivery or other complications.
For women with genital warts that are pregnant, it is important to be monitored. During pregnancy, hormone changes can cause warts to get bigger or more numerous. They can even bleed. Dependent on the size of your warts, your doctor will decide if postponing treatment until after the birth is the best course of action. However, if warts are so big that they might end up causing an obstruction for a vaginal birth, then they might be removed during pregnancy. There are different ways of removing warts. They can be removed with electric current, chemical treatment or surgically.
Are there any risks?
With strains of HPV that are high risk like HPV 16 and HPV 18, cells in the cervix that are abnormal can change into cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). A diagnosis of this is usually accompanied by a number 1, 2, or 3. CIN1 brings the least concern and CIN3 brings the most as it is the most likely to turn into cervical cancer. CIN occurs when an infection of HPV causes damage to the cells in the cervix. They cause lesions and these have been associated with low birth weight and premature labour for some people.
With this, there is a risk of the HPV infection being transmitted from the pregnant woman to her unborn child but this risk is very low. Even if the child does have HPV DNA, it does not signify issues or symptoms in their life or cervical cancer.
The worst-case scenario for pregnant mothers with HPV is that they have a strain that causes genital warts. The strains that cause these can also cause the baby to develop respiratory papillomatosis. This is when the baby develops warts in their throat. If this happens, warts will need to be surgically removed.
If you do have a high-risk strain of HPV and have to have the treatment during pregnancy, there are many treatment options such as photodynamic therapy for warts and abnormal tissue on the cervix.
What else can pregnant women with HPV do?
The vast majority of doctors will recommend a pregnant woman waits and see what happens, although some might suggest a treatment for the pregnant woman. The most important thing is catching abnormal cervical cell changes as early as possible. With treatment beginning at an earlier stage, you will be preventing the progression of cell changes.
It is also important to have a good lifestyle so you should cut off smoking and alcohol, eat better, exercise, keep stress to a minimum, and get enough good sleep. These things are good for your body during pregnancy, whether you have HPV or not.