Papillomavirus infection (Human papillomavirus, HPV) of the genital tract has recently come to the forefront of prevalence among people. This infection is so common that when tested, a positive result is much more expected than a negative one. The frequency of diagnosing this infection in the world over the past decade has increased by more than 10 times, which is most likely due to the close attention to this virus of scientists and doctors around the world. The interest in this infection is due to the fact that only recently the oncogenic properties of papillomaviruses have been discovered – papillomaviruses are able to cause cervical and rectal cancer. However, only a few of all the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) have the ability to cause cancer. What about HPV and pregnancy? Are they compatible?
The Main Pathogenic Agent of HPV
The main pathogen is a virus that affects the upper layer of the skin and mucous membranes of the genital organs. Transmission of these viruses is possible only from person to person. Infection occurs when it comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes of a sick person. After infection, the virus remains in the skin and mucous membranes. It does not enter the blood and other organs. Papillomavirus infection is not only a sexually transmitted disease. Infection can occur not necessarily during sexual intercourse. The use of a condom, virginity, a constant sexual partner – are not a guarantee of the absence of HPV in the body.
Papillomavirus infection is characterized by asymptomatic disease course. The incubation period (from infection to the appearance of the first signs of the disease) lasts from 3 months to several years. There are no clinical manifestations. It is possible to determine the existence of the virus in the body only with the help of tests. In many infected people, the virus ceases to be detected within two years even without treatment. In others HPV can stay in the organism for a long time, even from birth, and can show up for the first time in the middle of life in connection with decrease of immunity. This activates the virus and its increased reproduction. Thus the disease passes into the stage of clinical manifestations.
What to Do if you have been Diagnosed with HPV?
If you have been diagnosed with HPV, first of all, specify what type of virus it is. Only a few varieties of HPV represent a potential threat to women’s health. Perhaps the HPV that you are infected with is not at all dangerous. Ask your doctor which group your HPV belongs to, and how high the risk to your health is.
Can HPV Disappear by itself?
Many women are wondering whether HPV infection can disappear on its own, without treatment. There is incontrovertible evidence that our immunity is able to cope with the virus itself.
In most cases, HPV disappears from the body a few months after infection. Only in rare cases, this virus persists in the body for years and causes this or that disease.
HPV and Pregnancy
What concerns HPV and pregnancy, the virus during the gestation period is not such a terrible diagnosis, as it may seem. Penetration of the virus into the female body does not affect the condition of the fetus. In addition, experts have not yet proved that HPV affects the course of pregnancy. The virus does not lead to malformations of the child, does not increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and the development of other pathologies.
In the only case where the virus can pose a threat to the life of the fetus is the formation of anogenital or genital warts. The cause of the appearance of such formations is the infection of the female organism with HPV of 6 or 11 types.
If during the conception the virus was in the body of a woman in a latent form, then during the gestation of the child, most likely, it will manifest itself in the form of papillomas. In a situation where the warts were already on the body before conception, with the course of pregnancy they can increase in size and change the shape.
Infection with the virus often occurs if the papillomas are located in the area of the vagina and anus. Then during labor, the infection enters the body of the child. But, do not worry, usually the immunity of the newborn copes with the infection.
Currently, HPV and pregnancy is not an indication for a caesarean section.
Is it Possible to Plan Pregnancy and Give Birth with HPV?
The presence of HPV in the body does not reduce the chances of successful conception, normal pregnancy and natural childbirth.
If you have HPV of high oncogenic risk, and you are planning a pregnancy, then you need to consult a gynecologist and check cell smear. With normal results of cytology, pregnancy is not contraindicated. If the cytology reveals undesirable changes in the cervix, then your gynecologist can recommend to undergo treatment first, and then start planning pregnancy.
If you have ever had genital warts, then you can also plan a pregnancy. The types of HPV that cause the appearance of warts do not affect the ability of a woman to conceive a child and successfully cope with pregnancy. Still, if condylomata are present, then you may need treatment.
HPV and Pregnancy: Should the Virus Be Treated?
The human papillomavirus in a pregnant woman does not pose a threat to the unborn child. This virus can not cause malformations in the fetus or other complications.
The risk that the virus will be transmitted to the child is extremely small. Even if the child is infected with HPV from the mother, usually, his body successfully copes with this infection. At the moment, the presence of HPV in the body of a pregnant woman is not an indication for caesarean section.
If during pregnancy HPV caused undesirable changes in the cervix, you may need more careful monitoring by the doctor. It includes regular smears for cytology, colposcopy, etc. Usually, HPV treatment during pregnancy is not performed. Medications used for treatment may have adverse effects on the health of the fetus.
If HPV caused the appearance of genital warts, then you may also need more careful monitoring of the doctor. During pregnancy, condylomata can grow to large sizes and periodically bleed. Typically, the treatment of genital warts is postponed for the period after the birth. But in exceptional cases, treatment may be required urgently.
The Danger of HPV and Pregnancy
Why is it important to know about the presence of HPV in the body and to take preventive measures, even if nothing disturbs you (there are no warts and papillomas)?
The appearance of a neoplasm is a signal of a decrease in the defenses of the body. It can talk about any existing violations, as well as the increased risk of developing new diseases.
Some of the human papillomavirus strains have oncogenic properties. This means that their presence in the body increases the risk of malignant tumors. Many specialists associate the presence of the virus with the development of cervical and breast cancer.
It should be noted that HPV can present a particular danger to a pregnant woman. During pregnancy, a woman’s immunity decreases, and the virus can actively stimulate the development of papillomas. Their trauma, especially in the genital area, carries an additional risk of infection. And the presence of neoplasms inside the genital organs can cause infection of the child in the process of birth. If a woman who is planning a pregnancy is diagnosed with HPV, then it is recommended to take preventive measures and treat the virus beforehand.
In addition, HPV is rarely found as a single infection, but more often together in other sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, when specific neoplasms appear, it is important to consult a doctor and take the necessary tests.
Treatment of HPV in Women
Most women who found out that they are infected with HPV, ask the same question “Do I need to treat the virus, and if so, how?”
The answer to this question depends on several factors:
- Do you have any symptoms of infection?
- Do you have changes in the cervix according to the results of the cell smear?
If you have been diagnosed with HPV, but there are no symptoms of infection and cytology is normal, then no treatment for HPV is needed. It is not required because in 90% of cases the virus disappears from the body itself several months after infection. In general, it is impossible to get rid of HPV with medication: it either disappears due to the work of the immune system, or remains in the body and possibly will cause some diseases.
What concerns HPV and pregnancy, treatment with medications is usually not carried out, as they have a harmful effect on the fetus.
If you have been diagnosed with HPV and it caused the appearance of genital warts, then you need treatment.
Papillomavirus leads to a decrease in immunity. So, it can lead to the development of other infections, for example, thrush, which can penetrate deeper and infect the fetus. Considering the possible danger of developing candidiasis of the vagina and other infections, pregnant women are given immunomodulators, aimed at increasing the body’s defenses.
Take care of yourself and your health. Consult doctors in time. And, in no case, engage in self-medication – this is fraught with bad consequences.