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Frequently Asked Questions About HPV And Sexual Health

By December 23, 2009 - 8:08am

Article provided by QIAGEN

Can HPV affect your reproductive health? This is a common question that is brought up by women who may or may not carry the virus, or feel they are at risk. QIAGEN, makers of the digene HPV test, explains how the HPV virus can affect a women’s reproductive health, including whether or not HPV interferes with a women’s ability to conceive and what to know if cervical dysplasia develops.

Q. Do you need to be tested for HPV during pregnancy?
A. A Pregnancy does not require a change in the usual schedule for HPV and Pap testing recommended by your doctor or nurse. If you are due for your next Pap and (if you’re 30 or over) HPV test after becoming pregnant, you should go ahead and be tested. Otherwise, it’s not needed.

Q. Can HPV be passed to a child while in the womb?
A. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's possible for the HPV virus to be passed from mother to child during birth, but it is "rare." In fact, the agency estimates this occurs in no more than 1.1 cases per 100,000 children. In these extremely infrequent cases, the HPV infection is found in the infant's respiratory tract, which can lead to wart-like growths – most commonly, on the larynx. Early diagnosis and care are key.

Q. Does HPV interfere with your ability to conceive?
A. Having HPV does not interfere with a woman's ability to become pregnant.

Q. Will genital warts affect pregnancy or childbirth?
A. Most pregnant women with genital warts, or a history of them, are unlikely to have any HPV-related complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Although genital warts may grow in number during pregnancy due to changes in the body's immune system, treatment may be delayed until after birth to see if they go away on their own.

Most children born to women with a history of genital warts do not experience any HPV-related complications. Only very rarely is the virus passed to the child, causing warty growths to develop in the infant's throat as a result. Cesarean delivery is not usually recommended as a method of preventing this unusual occurrence.

Q. If you develop a pre-cancerous condition (cervical dysplasia), will it interfere with your ability to have a child?
A. Neither dysplasia nor its treatment will interfere with your ability to get pregnant. However, excisional forms of dysplasia treatment (in which the abnormal cells are removed), there is an increased risk of pre-term delivery, cesarean section or a low-birth-weight baby – particularly if a large amount of cervical tissue is removed. If you want to have children in the future, discuss these potential complications with your physician or other healthcare professional.

Q. Does having cervical cancer always mean you can never have children later?
A. Invasive cervical cancer usually requires the uterus to be removed. However, minimally invasive surgery that preserves the ability to have children may be an option for young women with small tumors. This procedure is called "radical vaginal trachelectomy with laparoscopic pelvic lymphadenectomy."

Q. If you are diagnosed with dysplasia or cervical cancer when you are pregnant, how is it treated?
A. The consensus guidelines published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology state that if a pregnant woman is diagnosed with CIN 2 or 3 (moderate or severe dysplasia), treatment and follow-up examinations should be delayed until six weeks following delivery.

In the case of women with invasive cervical cancer, treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer and of the pregnancy. For cervical cancer found in its early stages, or for cancer diagnosed during the last trimester of pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born.

HPV, cervical dysplasia and pre-cancerous conditions can interfere with a women’s reproductive health. For more information, please visit http://www.thehpvtest.com/About-HPV/Reproductive-Health-FAQs.html

HPV testing identifies women with high-risk HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer, enabling diagnosis and treatment to be put in place before cervical cancer develops. The digene HPV Test is for use together with a Pap test in women age 30 and older. For additional information on cervical cancer prevention and HPV testing, please visit www.theHPVtest.com.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.