[Question #4629] Genital HPV - Married Couple

29 months ago

My wife was informed last January that she both had an abnormal pap and a confirmed pregnancy.  They let the HPV/pap develop since they couldn't treat until post-pregnancy, and has since developed into precancerous lesions on her cervix, which were just operated on and biopsied last week (results pending). 

I received the HPV vaccine as a teenager.  While I understand that I am not vaccinated against all strands, I have never had any visual indications of having HPV.  I have had one partner with whom I had unprotected oral and vaginal sex who informed me that she had tested positive several months after we had ceased our relationship. 

The doctor who performed the operation on my wife said that there was little to be worried about in terms of practicing safe sex.  However, I do have questions about what practices are best from now onwards.  Should we be using condoms?  Is oral sex off the table, both as a giver and receiver (assuming we both have it)?  Is there anything else we should change? 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
29 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question and your confidence in our services.

I agree with your wife's doctor about sex with your wife. Whatever the source of her HPV infection, and whenever she acquired it, as her regular sexual partner you can safely assume you are infected with it, or previously infected with it and now immune. Avoiding sex now, or any change in your sexual practices (e.g. condoms, oral sex, or anything else) would make absolutely no difference in your health or the risks either you or your wife will have future problems with this. In the era before HPV was understood to be virtually the only cause of abnormal pap smears, and before HPV was known to be sexually transmitted -- that is for all of medical history since pap smears came into routine use 60-70 years ago -- nobody would give a second thought to continued sex with women with abnormal paps. And probably nobody ever got into any sort of health problem because of it. Of course common sense dictates that you get examined if any abnormalities show up, such as warts, other bumps, or non-healing sores of the penis. But these are very unlikely, and you undoubtedly would get such things checked out regardless of your wife's medical history.

So the only health issue at this time is for your wife to follow her doctor's advice about treatment and follow-up when the biopsy results are available.

And by the way, you also need not say anything to any past sex partners. Your wife also should not do so.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.