Cervical Cancer During Pregnancy | Ashley's Story
How to Become Pregnant With HPV
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is a virus that primarily affects the genital area. There are over 100 different types of HPV, and at least 13 of those strains cause cancer. Two strains in particular - HPV types 16 and 18 - are responsible for roughly 70% of cervical cancer cases worldwide.In most cases, HPV will clear up on its own using your own body's defenses, but some people develop complications like genital warts or cancer if the virus is left untreated.If you are considering pregnancy and know that you have HPV, you may have concerns about becoming pregnant or passing the virus to your baby. Having HPV does not typically affect a woman's ability to conceive or to have a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Ensuring a Safe Pregnancy
Have routine cancer screenings.If you are pregnant and you know you have HPV, it's important to get regular screenings for cervical cancer throughout the pregnancy. This can help prevent the chances of complications arising down the line.
Treat the symptoms.Many pregnant women with genital warts caused by HPV find that the warts increase in size and and spread during the course of a pregnancy.Because of this, it is important to prevent the outbreak from worsening in order to prevent complications during pregnancy.
- Talk to your OB/GYN about a safe way to treat wart outbreaks during pregnancy.
- Some OB/GYNs may recommend holding off on treatment until after the delivery. Your OB/GYN's course of action will most likely be determined based on the scope of your outbreak and the likelihood that it may cause complications during delivery.
Learn your risk of complications.In some cases, HPV-related genital warts may become large enough or spread out enough to block the birth canal. In these cases, a cesarean section (C-section) may be necessary to safely extract the baby.
- Talk to your doctor and OB/GYN about the risk of birth complications caused by genital warts, and if necessary, create a C-section plan with your doctor.
Treating and Preventing HPV
Know that your baby is safe.Having HPV does not typically cause any complications for the baby.
- It is possible for a mother to transmit HPV to her baby during the delivery, and that transmission may cause respiratory issues or genital warts in the baby.However, these cases are very rare.
- Even when HPV is transmitted to the baby he is typically able to recover from the symptoms, either with his own immune system or through medical intervention.
Get vaccinated.Vaccines, when given to males and females at an early age (around 11 to 12 years old), have been shown to prevent the contraction of HPV and its complications, including genital warts.
- Young women should be given two vaccines - Cervarix and Gardasil - around age 11 to 12 to prevent the forms of HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. These vaccines also prevent the contraction of genital warts and anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
- Young women through the age of 26 may still be given the Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines if they were not fully vaccinated at a younger age.
- Young men should be given the vaccine Gardasil around age 11 to 12 to protect against genital warts and anal cancers. Young men through age 26 may still be given the Gardasil vaccine if they were not properly vaccinated at a younger age.
- Vaccines cannot be used to treat HPV once it has been acquired. Vaccines also cannot be used to prevent cancer once HPV has been contracted. The vaccines are only effective in individuals who have not yet acquired HPV.
Treat HPV.Treatment typically involves removal of warts or application of antiviral medication to treat precancerous lesions.The exact course of treatment will vary, depending on the individual's health and the doctor's recommendations..
- At-home treatments for genital warts include Podofilox, Imiquimod, and Sinecatechins. These prescription-strength medications are applied to the affected area to remove genital warts.
- Your doctor may administer cryotherapy every one to two weeks as needed to freeze warts.
- Podophyllin resin may be administered by your doctor every one to two weeks as needed.
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or bichloracetic acid (BCA) may be administered by your doctor every one to two weeks as needed.
- Surgical removal may be recommended by your doctor. Do not attempt to surgically remove genital warts at home.
Understanding the Complications Caused by HPV
Recognize the symptoms of genital warts.Genital warts are a common complication of HPV, though the transmission of HPV does not always lead to genital warts.
- Approximately 360,000 individuals acquire genital warts each year in the United States alone.
- Genital warts may appear as a small bump or group of bumps. There is great variance in the appearance and size of genital warts. They may appear small or large, raised off the skin or flat, or may appear lumpy like a cauliflower crown.
- If left untreated, genital warts may go away on their own, they may remain unchanged, or they may spread and grow larger.
- Genital warts that grow large and spread to the birth canal may cause complications during a pregnancy.
Learn about cervical cancer.Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women living in under-developed regions of the world. In 2012 it caused almost 270,000 deaths worldwide.
- Cervical cancer usually does not present any noticeable symptoms until it enters advanced stages, at which point it can become life-threatening and difficult to treat.
- Having regular Pap tests can help identify and treat cervical cancer before it enters the advanced stages. Regular Pap tests are the most effective means of detecting and preventing cervical cancer.
Understand other cancer risks.Though cervical cancer is the most serious complication related to HPV transmission, the virus has been linked to numerous other types of cancers that can affect both men and women worldwide.
- Vulvar cancer - cancer of the vulva (the outer portion of female genitalia) is often caused by HPV. Almost seven out of every ten cases of vulvar cancer, and virtually all incidents of vulvar pre-cancer, are linked to HPV transmission. Routine physical examinations by a medical professional are the best means of detecting vulvar cancer.
- Vaginal cancer - over seven out of every ten cases of vaginal cancer are linked to HPV transmission. The same Pap tests used to detect cervical cancer are sometimes used to detect vaginal cancer and pre-cancer.
- Penile cancer - men exposed to high-risk HPV strains may develop cancer of the penis. In fact, roughly six out of every ten cases of penile cancer are linked to HPV transmission. There is currently no approved screening test to detect the early stages of penile cancer, and many cases go undetected until the later stages of cancer.
- Anal cancer - nearly all cases of squamous cell cancer of the anus across both men and women are caused by HPV transmission. The best way to detect anal cancer is by performing an anal cytology test, sometimes referred to as an anal Pap test. These exams are typically only performed on individuals determined to be at a high risk of cancer formation, such as people with compromised immune systems or individuals who have received an organ transplant.
- Mouth and throat cancer - over seven out of every ten cases of cancer in the back of the throat (including the tongue and tonsils) are linked to HPV transmission. Mouth and throat cancer, also known as oropharyngeal cancer, does not currently have any approved screening test to detect the early stages.
QuestionCan having warts inside the vagina wall prevent me from getting pregnant?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. Having warts inside the vagina may cause infections and increase your chances of obtaining an infectious disease, but in no way will it prevent unwanted pregnancies. Talk to your doctor or gynecologist about them.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I help my immune system to get rid of HPV naturally?Top AnswererThere is no cure for HPV. When you get it, it doesn't go away. The only way to protect against it is to get vaccinated before you get exposed.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to engage in unsafe sex if I suffer from genital warts?Community AnswerIf a woman has genital warts, she can pass the HPV virus to her partner, from direct skin-to-skin contact. To be safer, the man should wear a condom.Thanks!
QuestionIs it safe to have unprotected sex with my boyfriend after getting the Gardasil vaccine? What are the chances of me passing the virus to him?Top AnswererIf you have never had HPV and have gotten all 3 rounds of Gardasil, then you should not be able to pass the HPV virus. However, if you already have the virus the vaccine protects against and got the vaccine after the fact, it won't be effective.Thanks!
What should I go if I've been diagnosed as having HPV?
- Your annual pap smear looks for abnormal cervical cells before they develop into cervical cancer. Cancer of the vagina and vulva can result from HPV.
- It is possible to get HPV without even knowing it. Many people have no symptoms or signs for many years while still carrying the HPV virus.
- Talk to your OB/GYN about the risk of HPV complications during pregnancy.
- Never let precancerous cells go untreated, or they may develop into cancer.
- Be aware that there are no tests to screen men for HPV, and it is very contagious.
Sources and Citations
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