Genital warts — growths in the genital area caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) — can often feel embarrassing and unpleasant. But if you’re an expecting mother, the combination of genital warts and pregnancy can be extremely worrying.
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and you have HPV, you may have many questions and concerns. Will HPV or warts affect your pregnancy, childbirth or cause any harm to your unborn child? Can pregnancy impact existing warts? Is it possible to treat genital warts during pregnancy?
In this post, we’ll be answering these questions and more — providing you with a clear picture of what it means to be pregnant and have HPV or genital warts.
How do genital warts affect pregnancy?
Women who have the human papillomavirus (HPV) may be concerned that this — or the presence of genital warts — could harm their unborn child or cause complications to the pregnancy.
The majority of the time, genital warts have little to no impact on a pregnancy. No link has been found between genital warts and pregnancy complications like miscarriage or premature delivery.
However, active warts may grow larger than they typically would if you weren’t pregnant because of changes to your hormones and immune system. This can sometimes cause pain when urinating.
On the whole, genital warts do not affect pregnancy itself but may — very rarely — cause complications during delivery.
If you are suffering from genital warts whilst pregnant, you should always speak to your GP or midwife, meanwhile you can also read about genital warts symptoms here.
What treatments are available to pregnant women?
The treatment of genital warts during pregnancy varies from case to case. Most of the time, your doctor will suggest not treating genital warts during pregnancy because they are so unlikely to cause any complications to the pregnancy or danger to the baby.
However, if you do really want to treat genital warts during your pregnancy, there are options:
- Freezing warts using liquid nitrogen
- Surgically removing warts
- Using laser currents to burn off warts
It is normally advised that you avoid topical treatments and medical creams like Warticon because of the risk of side effects that could impact your pregnancy. These treatments can also cause pain and irritation on sensitive skin.
If you want to treat genital warts while you are pregnant, you should consult your doctor, practice nurse or local sexual health clinic first.
Are genital warts dangerous for pregnant women?
Genital warts are not dangerous for pregnant women. They may cause discomfort, itching and pain, but they are not dangerous.
Existing warts may grow faster or bigger during pregnancy due to changes in your hormones or immune systems. This may make things like urinating uncomfortable.
In very rare circumstances, large genital warts might lead to delivery complications due to bleeding or affecting your vagina’s ability to stretch during childbirth. In these cases, a cesarean section may be needed.
Do genital warts affect your chances of getting pregnant?
In short, no. The presence of genital warts and HPV will not affect your chances or ability to get pregnant.
Some strains of HPV can increase your chances of developing abnormal cells (such as precancerous or cancerous cells) in your cervix. If these cells are removed, fertility and carrying to term could be affected. This is because cell removal can impact the opening of the cervix or cervical mucus production.
However, genital warts themselves will not affect your ability to conceive.
Genital warts and childbirth
On the whole, genital warts will not impact the successful delivery of your baby.
In rare cases, large warts could cause some complications during childbirth. This is because they may cause bleeding during delivery. If you have warts on the vaginal wall, it may also make it harder for your vagina to stretch as much as it needs to during childbirth.
In these situations, cesarean delivery may be recommended — it is best to discuss the possibility of this with your doctor or midwife.
The risk of passing HPV to your baby is extremely low; most of the time, babies born to women with genital warts will not be affected.
Very rarely, genital warts may be passed on to the baby, which can result in medical conditions. They might develop warts in their mouth or throat several weeks after birth, and have problems with breathing. If you are concerned about the risk of this, you can speak to your doctor.
Ultimately, genital warts have little to no impact on pregnancy, conception or childbirth for the majority of women.
However, it is always best to inform your doctor of your history of HPV and genital warts during your pregnancy journey — they will be able to monitor your condition and advise you on the best course of action if you are concerned about genital warts or struggling with discomfort.
For more information on genital warts, you can read our genital warts guides.