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You are here: Home > Fertility & Trying to Conceive > Fertility Concerns

Does HPV Treatment Affect Fertility and Pregnancy?

by Katlyn Joy | October 17, 2013 9:03 AM
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HPV or the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) is a common virus that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be contracted by 80 percent of women and 50 percent of men and women combined, at some point in their lives. About 6 million new cases of HPV occur each year in the US, according to the CDC.

If a woman has had treatment for cervical cancer due to HPV, she will not experience difficulties in getting pregnant in the vast majority of cases. However, according to an article published by MedScape, a recent study found that 9.4% of women who had undergone treatment for HPV through cervical surgery, tried to conceive for 12 months or more before pregnancy was achieved. The risk of preterm labor was also elevated.

The good news is that HPV does not seem to affect a woman's pregnancy. Neither is it linked to miscarriages, prematurity or other pregnancy problems. The risk of the baby contacting the virus is quite low with only 1.1 cases per 100,000 children, according to the CDC. In cases where the mother has genital warts, the warts may multiply during pregnancy due to the hormones promoting their growth. Very rarely a baby will develop warts in their throat which is considered a serious condition. However, it is so rare that the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians still recommend mothers with genital warts choose vaginal birth over cesarean section, as the risks of having a cesarean section outweigh possible benefit.

Types of HPV

There are 30 different types of HPV that are spread solely by genital contact. Of these, there are two types; high risk means there is a higher risk of developing cancer, specifically cervical cancer; low risk means a lower risk of cancer but an increased risk of developing genital warts. Transmitting of HPV involves skin to skin contact that takes place during vaginal, oral or anal sex.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

HPV is often silent and can affect both men and women without any symptoms. Typically the infection is suppressed by the body and disappears without the person ever being aware of its presence. In fact, the CDC believes that 70 percent of new infections, including the high-risk variety go away on their own within a year and 91 percent disappear within two years. However, sometimes an infection persists and may develop into cervical cancer.

Testing is typically performed through routine PAP smears performed by your Gynecologist. If positive, through HPV testing as well.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

About five percent of HPV cases develop into high risk types and cause cervical cancer. About 70 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 over 12,000 women got cervical cancer and 4,220 died of the disease.

Overall the risk factor for high-risk HPV developing into cervical cancer is that women with it are 200 times more likely to get pre-cancerous cervical disease in their lifetime. The National Cancer Institute found that in women with high-risk HPV, four percent developed pre-cancerous cervical disease within 3 years of diagnosis, and seven percent developed advanced cervical disease in 10 years.

Treatment

HPV cannot be cured with antibiotics or medications. For the low risk variety of HPV, the only treatment available for genital warts is through the use of gels, creams, or lasers.

For high-risk types that cause cervical changes, other options exist. In most cases, cell changes are watched closely with repeated and more frequent PAP smears. Many times the cells will return to normal on their own and no further treatment besides keeping a watchful eye is required. Should abnormal cells persist, they will be removed surgically, often through LEEP procedure, which uses electrical energy, or laser therapy to remove the affected cells.

Should the changes have progressed to a more advanced case, more aggressive treatment such as hysterectomy or chemotherapy may be necessary.

Prevention

Because there usually are no symptoms associated with HPV, there is no way of knowing if your partner has HPV unless he or she has been tested in the past. To prevent cervical cancer, women and girls are advised to have a PAP smear performed if they are sexual active every three years. If you are considering trying to conceive or pregnant, and your test comes back positive, discuss with your doctor the treatment methods available and their risks to make informed decision about the best course of treatment.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado with her family.

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