HPV and Pregnancy Risks You Must Know

Women need to be diligent about regular pap smears and HPV testing, especially when it comes to HPV and pregnancy. Even with all of the talk of HPV, many women are still under the impression that it’s not that big a deal. The truth is that HPV can mean a matter or life or death for not only women but their unborn babies as well.

The Truth About HPV

There are many different strains of Human Papillomavirus; the high risk strains are those responsible to pre-cancerous cells and the other strains can cause genital warts but don’t put you at increased risk for cancer. HPV and pregnancy are especially worrisome because precancerous cell changes on the cervix progress at a faster rate during pregnancy, though doctors still do not fully understand why. This means that if you have certain strains of HPV and are pregnant, your cells can go from mild precancerous to high-grade or full-blown cancer very quickly.

The low risk strains of HPV can cause genital warts which for you may simply be a nuisance, but to your unborn baby it can much more. A baby can contract HPV on its way out of the birth canal if the mother has genital warts. This can cause them to develop warts in the throat which can interfere with breathing. And while this is very rare, it is still a risk that needs to be considered. Also, genital warts are known to multiply and grow larger during pregnancy which, depending on the location, can obstruct the birth canal.

And another fact that you need to know is that more than 80 percent of women contract one or more strains of HPV before the age of 50. And since it often produces no symptoms, you can have it and not know.

The Importance of Testing for HPV

Getting tested for HPV means regular pap smears and pelvic exams. This is how abnormal cells on the cervix can be found (dysplasia) and often how genital warts are discovered. Since HPV and pregnancy increase certain risks, you should be sure to keep up with your pap smears and exams even if you are pregnant and feel fine. And don’t forget your post-delivery follow up either! This is when many women first find out they have abnormal cell changes on the cervix and the sooner you can get treatment, the better chance you have of stopping the progression to cancer.

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