Think of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and many things might come to mind; from the fact that it can cause a number of complications if it goes untreated to how effective the HPV vaccine is at lowering chances of contracting HPV. Still, despite this knowledge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 48 million cases of HPV occurred in the United States in 2018 alone; making it one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S [1].

In the majority of HPV cases, the infection goes away on its own, usually causing little to no health problems [2]. However, if HPV doesn’t go away on its own or goes unnoticed and untreated, it can sometimes cause complications such as genital warts and cancer. And although the infection itself doesn’t always have a direct impact on a woman’s fertility, the complications associated with HPV can make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Related article: What is HPV? Symptoms and Risk


Does having HPV make it harder to get pregnant?


HPV is so common that anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting it. It’s most commonly spread through sexual contacts such as vaginal or anal sex and it can even be passed on when an infected person is showing no obvious signs or symptoms.

According to Mayo Clinic, there are more than 100 strains of HPV and while some cause genital warts, others can cause cervical cancer [3]. CDC estimates that around 10% of women with HPV infection on their cervix are at a greater risk of developing cervical cancer and although the virus itself can’t directly affect fertility, if your HPV infection causes cervical cancer, it can affect a woman’s fertility [4].

If you would like to check for HPV, you can test from home with an at-home HPV test.

Related article: 5 Common Fertility Myths, Debunked


HPV, Cervical cancer and, fertility


As early cervical cancer is known to show little to no symptoms, regular screening is vital. If from your routine screening test results, your doctor thinks you would benefit from further testing, they may recommend a colposcopy to examine the surface of your cervix more closely or a biopsy where a sample of the cells is taken and examined further under a microscope.

If abnormal cells are identified early and before cancer develops, you will likely receive treatment; this treatment should not affect your ability to get pregnant. However, if these cells go unnoticed and untreated, they may develop into cervical cancer. Cervical cancer treatment usually involves surgery to remove the cervix or the womb, radiotherapy, or a combination of both; each of which will hinder a woman’s ability to get pregnant.

Related article: What Causes Infertility in Women?


What happens if you have HPV and get pregnant?


Routine cervical cancer screening is not often recommended during pregnancy as the shift of hormones during pregnancy can make it difficult to get clear results [5]. However, if abnormal cells were previously found in your cervix, screening while pregnant may be recommended.

If you are pregnant and have tested positive for HPV, your treatment will typically depend on your results; it may involve no treatment at all, a screening check-up within one year, or a colposcopy (which is safe to have during pregnancy) [6].

Test for HPV from home with an at-home HPV Test.


Can you pass HPV to your baby during pregnancy?


While HPV is typically passed on through sexual contact, a mother can pass the infection on to her child during birth - though this is particularly rare. If you have tested positive for HPV and you are pregnant, it’s important to check in with your health care provider to discuss any concerns you may have.

Related article: Can I Get Pregnant With Low Progesterone Levels?


One of the most reliable ways to avoid any complications associated with HPV is through regular testing - this can be done with your doctor or from home with an at-home HPV test.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home HPV test detects high-risk strains of cervical cancer. It involves a simple cervical swab sample and online results will be available within 2-5 days. Should you have any questions throughout the process, our dedicated clinical team is there to offer a helping hand, explain your results, and take you through any recommended next steps. This test is not a replacement for regular cervical (pap) smear tests.

You should take the test if*:

  • You have had skin to skin contact with someone who is carrying the HPV virus

  • You have had unprotected sex

  • You have not received an HPV vaccine

  • It is important to discuss this test with your doctor if you are outside the recommended age for HPV screening programs.


References


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Online: Cdc.gov
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Online: Cdc.gov
  3. Mayo Clinic. HPV Infection. Online: Mayoclinic.org
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Online: Cdc.gov
  5. HSE. Cervical Screening During Pregnancy. Online: HSE.ie
  6. HSE. Cervical Screening During Pregnancy. Online: HSE.ie