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HPV During Pregnancy

By Anshum Joshi

HPV is a short form for Human papillomavirus which is a virus infection in humans. 'Papilloma' means 'warts' which is the growth of mucous membrane or skin on external parts of the body mostly genitals.

Causes And Symptoms Of HPV In Women

There are no major symptoms of HPV, as people don't even feel unwell while they are infected with it. They overall feel fine but can still transmit it to the person coming in their contact. It is easily contagious that skin-to-skin contact is all it needs to be spread from the infected person to another.

What exactly contracts the HPV is also not known. One of the common types of HPV in women is 'Genital warts', which is identified with the visible skin growth around vagina, anus and rectum.

These warts are contagious and can easily spread through sexual activity. There are no particular symptoms of these warts, as they occasionally cause itching, burning and bleeding but otherwise are painless.

The skin growth in pelvic examination leads to the need of HPV tests. It has been observed that the genital warts dissolve on their own in most women with the course of time. However, some of the HPV types lead to cancer by altering the cells which is again a rare case.

The Baby Of A HPV Positive Mother

It is a beautiful experience of becoming a mother and fortunately, there are only rare cases of miscarriage, premature birth or other complications to baby in a HPV positive mother. Though genital warts tend to grow faster during pregnancy because of the discharge, it does not pose any risk in the baby's development.

Also, the chances of HPV being transmitted to the baby are again rare. Even if it is passed to the baby, the baby overcomes it naturally during its development or through medicinal treatment. A rare but serious condition of respiratory papillomatosis sometimes arises, in which the baby develops warts in its throat. It is thus treated surgically as soon as the baby is born.

Precautions To Be Taken During Pregnancy

Every expecting mother always wants the best for her developing baby but in case the mother was already diagnosed with genital warts and had been on medication, the treatment is generally stopped during pregnancy.

There is also a vaccine called Gardasil that can prevent HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, though it cannot prevent the 30 sexually transmitted HPV types, neither can it treat the existing HPV in the body.

Since, Gardasil contains aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulfate, it is not given to the pregnant women or those who are trying to conceive.

Treatment Of HPV During Pregnancy

Genital warts generally do not cause any problem in pregnancy and hence doctors prefer not to treat it to avoid any complication caused by the medicines such as premature labour in the mother. Also the body's immune system knows how to treat HPV naturally.

In some cases, such as the large-size warts, the treatment may be required because it can be harmful during childbirth. In this case, safe methods such as freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, burning the warts using electrical current and laser or surgical removal are used.

Given below are some of the medicines that are also available to treat warts but are generally avoided in pregnant women due to their side effects:

• Salicylic acid removes one layer of the wart at a time, though it may cause skin irritation in some patients and thus not preferred for pregnant women.
• Imiquimod enhances the ability of immune system to fight against HPV.
• Podofilox is applied directly on the infected area and it destroys the wart tissues, but it also causes pain and itching in the application area.
• Trichloroacetic acid burns the warts through its chemical composition. It also causes local irritation.

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