Genital Warts and Pregnancy: Detailed Guide

If you have experienced genital warts in the past as a result of the HPV (human papilloma virus), or are currently experiencing an outbreak, then you may be concerned about potential problems if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

While there is no evidence to suggest that genital warts can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, premature delivery, or preeclampsia, there is a possibility that the HPV that causes genital warts in the expectant female can be passed on to the baby. The warts themselves can also cause significant discomfort during pregnancy, and can also, in some rare cases, cause complications in childbirth.

Trying to Conceive

If a woman with no history of genital warts is trying to conceive, there are no special tests required to identify dormant cases of HPV. The regular pap smears recommended for all women will uncover HPV, and even if you haven’t had a pap smear recently (or ever), one will be taken at your first prenatal appointment once you are pregnant.

A woman with a history of HPV who is trying to conceive should make sure that her doctor is aware of this, because once she becomes pregnant changes in these cells can occur quite rapidly, and the doctor will want to monitor this.

The Impact of Genital Warts on the Mother During Pregnancy

There is no evidence that women who have previously suffered from genital warts are more likely to have a new outbreak while they are pregnant. However, existing genital warts, both external and inside the vagina, may grow larger and be more prone to bleeding in early pregnancy.

The medical community is unsure as to exactly what causes genital warts to grow and change when the sufferer is a pregnant woman, however the most likely, accepted explanation is that this is a response to changes in hormone levels and the expectant mother’s immune system. Genital warts are caused by a virus (HPV), so the immune system has a big impact on how aggressive the symptoms are.

If the warts grow significantly, depending on where they are, they can lead to worsened symptoms including:

  • difficulty in urinating,
  • itching,
  • discomfort,
  • bleeding,
  • discharge.

It is therefore best, if you have discovered that you are pregnant, to have the warts treated immediately with a form of treatment that is safe for pregnant women to prevent your warts from worsening. Home remedies can be the cheapest, most convenient and discreet way to do this, and there are effective and safe ways to remove genital warts at home, or your doctor will be able to advice on courses of treatment.

Potential Complications with Childbirth

Genital warts inside the vagina can lead to complications with the delivery of the baby, because they can affect the elasticity of the vaginal wall. The warts can also block the birth canal, making the natural vaginal mode of delivery complicated or impossible.

While these cases are rare, it may be necessary to deliver the baby via Cesarean section (c-section) if the warts inside the vagina cause these kinds of issues. Cesarean birth is more risky to the mother than natural childbirth, so if you know you have genital warts and are in late pregnancy, it is much better to have the warts removed before they have an opportunity to create problems with the birth of your baby.

The Potential Impact on the Baby

The risk of the human papilloma virus passing from mother to baby during a natural, vaginal delivery is classed as very low by doctors, however this can happen. The risk is not viewed as significant enough to make a Cesarean delivery necessary in uncomplicated cases of genital warts, where the warts are not restricting the ability for the mother to give birth vaginally.

If HPV does become transmitted to the infant,in many cases, the baby’s elevated immune system allows them to cure the virus by themselves. If this happens they will never display any symptoms of the disease, though some babies who contract the virus through contact with the warts during childbirth will develop warts which will need to be treated.

Complications for the Baby

There is also a rare complication called laryngeal papillomatosis which the child can experience as a newborn, or which can lie dormant for up to around five years and present itself at any time. This can lead to warts developing in the child’s voicebox or their throat in general, and can be very serious because it can render them unable to breathe properly.

This means that the condition is potentially life threatening, so medical assistance should be sought immediately if you notice any symptoms indicative of trouble breathing or vocal problems in your child if you had genital warts when you were pregnant.

Laryngeal papillomatosis can be treated, but requires regular laser surgery to stop the growing warts obstructing the child’s breathing. Understandably it is far better to prevent the HPV from passing to the baby in the first place by treating the warts in the mother during pregnancy.

Treatment Options

There are several effective methods of removing genital warts, some of which you can do yourself at home, and most of which are suitable for pregnant women, as well as other adult women and men. The most common treatments are:

  • medicated topical creams (prescription or non-prescription),
  • cryotherapy (where the wart is frozen off),
  • electrocautery (burning the warts off with electricity),
  • laser removal,
  • surgical removal,
  • chemical removal with trichloracetic acid.

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