[Question #551] HPV and Pregnancy

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99 months ago

I have a few questions about women that are infected with high-risk HPV while trying to conceive (or during pregnancy):

1. Are the health risks posed by high-risk HPV to a woman who acquires the virus shortly before becoming pregnant (or during pregnancy) amplified due to the effects that pregnancy has on a woman's immune system (e.g., is clearance of the virus more difficult, do cervical cell changes occur more rapidly)?  

2. What are the health risks to a baby that is in utero and/or born while the mother has an active high-risk HPV infection? Can the virus be passed from the mother to the child, and, if so, what are the impacts to the child? 

Thank you kindly in advance. 
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Edward W. Hook M.D.
99 months ago

Welcome to our Forum. I'll be pleased to help address your questions. It is safe to assume that MOST pregnant women have or have had HPV.  Despite this, HPV related complications of pregnancy is virtually unheard of.  In women with visible warts, they may increase in size during pregnancy but this is otherwise rarely a problem.  There is no recommendation for special precautions or testing for HPV as part of care for pregnant women, in large part because there is no known risk associated with HPV which is present during pregnancy.   

There is a very rare, treatable condition called laryngeal papillomatosis which occurs in no more than 1 in 25,000 live births which is due to infection of the child that occurs during delivery.  To put this in perspective, your risk of being struck by lightening is about three times higher (I in 7000) than your risk of delivering a child with this rare condition.   There are no clear risks of in utero infection for children born to mothers with HPV during pregnancy.

I hope these comments are helpful.  EWH