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HPV and pregnancy: key points to know

Medically reviewed on October 19, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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A pregnancy can come with all sorts of fun questions—like what your nursery colors will be, what you’ll name your bundle of joy, and what traits they’ll inherit from their parents. But sometimes, other, more concerning questions can come into play—like what happens when human papillomavirus (HPV) and pregnancy coincide.

If you have HPV or have had it in the past, you’re probably wondering what happens if you have HPV while pregnant. Can you get pregnant with HPV? And if you can, should you?

If these questions are on your mind, keep reading. We’ll cover everything you need to know about HPV and pregnancy, including factors to consider while trying to conceive, those to consider during pregnancy, and potential postnatal effects.

What is HPV?

HPV is one of the most common infectious diseases transmitted through sexual intercourse. According to National Center for Health Statistics, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. [1] Around 80% of people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. [2] This may, in turn, lead those who aren’t sexually active to ask, “Can you get HPV without having sex?” The answer is yes, through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone already infected with HPV. However, one of the main HPV risk factors is being sexually active.

While these statistics may sound alarming, keep in mind:

  • Most cases of HPV are harmless and may not require treatment
  • In most cases, the infection won’t cause symptoms, or symptoms are mild
  • According to the [CDC](https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm), in 9 out of 10 cases your immune system can clear an HPV infection on its own [3]

Does HPV go away? Currently, there is no cure for HPV. In addition, it’s important to be aware of your infection status, as certain types of the virus can lead to additional health problems, including cancer.

HPV is spread through sexual contact, so it is possible to get HPV from having unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. You can also get HPV by having unprotected sex with multiple partners, or by having sex with someone who has had multiple partners. [4]

What are the risks of becoming pregnant if you have HPV?

Normally, HPV has a low risk of leading to pregnancy complications, miscarriage, or health problems for your baby. It’s very likely that you will have a healthy pregnancy even with HPV, especially with good care and regular checkups.

That said, knowing the possible risks can help you be prepared. Let’s take a closer look at four risks associated with HPV and pregnancy and what you should know about them.

#1 Fertility issues

Can HPV cause infertility? While it may not directly cause infertility, if you’re trying to conceive, you should know that there is some evidence HPV can affect fertility in several ways: [5]

  • The virus can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, which can make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant
  • HPV can cause low levels of progesterone, which is necessary for a healthy pregnancy
  • HPV infection in males appears to be linked to poor sperm quality in some cases

If you’re concerned that HPV may affect your ability to conceive, the best step is to talk to your healthcare provider. They can guide you toward fertility resources that may help and provide more insights into how HPV might be affecting your fertility.

#2 Complications during delivery

Occasionally, the hormonal changes of pregnancy can lead to rapid growth of the genital warts caused by HPV. These warts are benign, and treatment can usually be delayed until after birth of the baby.

However, in some cases, warts can partially block the birth canal. In especially severe cases, this can require delivery by cesarean section. Contact with these warts during birth can sometimes lead to chronic respiratory papillomatosis in the baby, but this is very rare.

#3 Abnormal placental development

During pregnancy, HPV can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the placenta, which can lead to placental dysfunction and premature rupture of membranes (PROM). Some research has also suggested that HPV may be linked to: [6]

  • Preterm birth
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertensive disorders (PIHD)
  • Miscarriage
  • Low birth weight

#4 Postnatal cervical cancer risk

People who have had HPV may be at an increased risk for developing cervical cancer, especially those who have had multiple pregnancies. It’s important that you continue to get regular Pap smears and other screenings as recommended by your healthcare provider following your pregnancy.

Can you have a healthy pregnancy with human papillomavirus infection?

It’s not only possible to have a healthy pregnancy with HPV—but also, it’s likely that both you and your baby will be just fine. [7] However, you should consider the risks carefully and know what signs to look for to ensure both you and your child receive the best care possible.

Let your obstetrician know if you have HPV and you are pregnant. During your pregnancy, they can monitor you for abnormal changes in the cells of the placenta and cervix, which can develop rapidly.

Can you have children if you have HPV?

The good news is, you will most likely still be able to have children even if you have or have had HPV. The chances of HPV affecting your fertility are thought to be fairly low, although some research has suggested it may affect sperm quality. Passing the infection to your baby either through the placenta or at birth is also believed to be very uncommon. [8]

Still, take time to learn about the potential complications and speak with your healthcare provider about your risk factors to make an informed decision.

How can I protect myself from HPV?

There is no single best way to prevent an HPV infection, but there are several things you can do to lower your risk. These include:

  • Using condoms during sex
  • Getting an HPV vaccination
  • Regular HPV screening or HPV testing such as a Pap smear

Test for HPV in the comfort of your home with Everlywell

If you’re worried about HPV or think you may have been exposed, it’s important to get tested. Our HPV test options are quick, easy, and confidential, and you can take them in the privacy of your home. Each test screens for multiple types of HPV virus, including the high-risk genotypes HPV 16 and HPV 18/45.

If you test positive for HPV, you’ll need to follow up with your healthcare provider. There are several treatment options available, depending on the type of HPV infection and whether you are currently pregnant. Your healthcare provider will be able to guide you on how to proceed.

Get peace of mind and take control of your health with a convenient at-home HPV test from Everlywell.

Can you get HPV without having sex?

HPV risk factors and prevention for men and women

Can HPV cause infertility?

UTI vs. STD: Differences in symptoms

  1. Products - Data Briefs - Number 280 - April 2017. CDC. Published 2019. URL. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  2. Chesson HW, Dunne EF, Hariri S, Markowitz LE. The Estimated Lifetime Probability of Acquiring Human Papillomavirus in the United States. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2014;41(11):660-664. doi:10.1097/olq.0000000000000193. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  3. STD Facts - Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 19, 2021. URL. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  4. STD Facts - Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 19, 2021. URL. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  5. Jeršovienė V, Gudlevičienė Ž, Rimienė J, Butkauskas D. Human Papillomavirus and Infertility. Medicina. 2019;55(7):377. doi:10.3390/medicina55070377. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  6. Condrat CE, Filip L, Gherghe M, Cretoiu D, Suciu N. Maternal HPV Infection: Effects on Pregnancy Outcome. Viruses. 2021;13(12):2455. doi:10.3390/v13122455. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  7. Castellsagué X, Drudis T, Cañadas MP, et al. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection in pregnant women and mother-to-child transmission of genital HPV genotypes: a prospective study in Spain. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2009;9(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-74. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  8. LaCour DE. Human Papillomavirus in Infants: Transmission, Prevalence, and Persistence. Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. 2012;25(2):93-97. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2011.03.001. Accessed September 30, 2022.
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