HPV, which is also known as the Human papilloma virus, is a group of viruses that affects the skin and the moist membranes lining the body. HPV usually affects the cervix, the anus, or the mouth and the throat. There are about 100 types of HPV, from which 30 types affect the genital area. The HPV affecting the genital area is common and highly contagious, and genial HPV usually spreads during sexual intercourse or skin to skin contact. Genital HPV in adults usually causes genital warts and an abnormal growth of tissues and cell changes within the cervix which can sometimes lead to a more serious condition such as cervical cancer.
Genital HPV is the most common STI (sexually transmitted infection) in the U.S. While it affects men and women of all ages, pregnant women should be knowledgeable and extremely cautious about the virus. If you suspect that you are HPV positive, knowing the condition's effects on your newborn can help you carry and deliver your child safely. While the effect of HPV on babies is still a debatable issue, and the magnitude of risk to the newborn varies, there are some important things that you must understand to avoid the complications and risky situations in the first place.
For most patients HPV is very uncommon in affecting the pregnancy or the baby’s health. If you are suffering from genital warts then they may grow faster during your pregnancy due to changes in hormones or changes in the immune system. But these warts are very unlikely to affect your baby in an adverse manner. While this is very uncommon as well, and happens only to a few women, there is also a chance that you may pass the virus on to your baby. If your baby/child contracts HPV, they are very likely to overcome and deal with the virus on their own without any harmful symptoms or any issues. In the very rare event that the child gets HPV that causes him/her genital warts, they may also develop warts on their vocal cords or other areas of the body. This condition is known as papillomatosis, and is very serious but is also very rare.
The physical and hormonal changes your body goes through during pregnancy can cause HPV outbreaks. As a result, HPV can lead to the growth of numerous large warts on your genital area. These can cause difficulties during normal vaginal delivery and make it hard for doctors to do an episiotomy (a necessary cut made to enlarge vagina to ease the birth process). Having warts from HPV also increases the risk of the child contracting the infection during vaginal delivery. In such cases, a Cesarean section may be recommended by the doctor to increase the baby's safety. For patients with a pregnancy and who are suffering from genital HPV, it is important to know that it is unclear whether the cesarean section plays any major role in preventing respiratory papillomatosis in infants and children. Cesarean section are likely to only be recommended by the doctor if the pelvic outlet is obstructed or if vaginal delivery will cause excessive bleeding for the mother, it is not done solely to prevent transmission of HPV to the baby.
Transmission of the HPV virus does not always depend on the severity of your HPV. You may not experience any symptoms, but your baby can contract the infection while passing through your birth canal. Although the risks of transmission are very low and babies' immune systems are typically able to clear up the HPV infection on their own without treatment, it is best to be seen by a doctor if you are concerned about the situation.
If your newborn contracts HPV during birth and their immune system does not clear the virus out on its own, he/she may develop neonatal conjunctivitis. This condition is also known as ophthalmia neonatorum, or pink eye, in babies. Conjunctivitis is an infection of the lining of the eyelids. If your baby has conjunctivitis, his/her eyelids may swell and produce watery, bloody or thick discharge. This can take place anywhere from one to two days after birth. This condition can cause damage to the eyes of your newborn, and even cause blindness in severe cases. If your baby displays any signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis, consult your doctor immediately.
If your newborn contracts HPV during birth, it may also cause laryngeal papillomatosis. HPV types 6 and 11 can cause these respiratory problems in infants and small children. The way the transmission of this HPV occurs is still unclear and not understood. That is, whether the route is transplacental, perinatal or postnatal, it is still unknown. Laryngeal papillomatosis is a condition which leads to the formation of warts in the throat and on the larynx. Although this condition is extremely rare, it may cause breathing difficulties and even fatality. Laryngeal papillomatosis can be treated with laser surgery to remove warts. The complicated part of laryngeal papillomatosis is that symptoms may not be present at birth and warts can continue to develop for up to 5 years after a baby is born. Therefore, it is important to consult doctor immediately if your baby has breathing problems during the first few years of life and may have contracted HPV.
You can prevent the occurrence or the chance of getting HPV by having sex with a partner who doesn’t have multiple partners and who doesn’t have warts. Use of condoms during sex can also prevent the infection of HPV. After giving birth, the patients can also get vaccinated against some of the types of HPV. There are two vaccines that protect women against two high risk strains of HPV. These two strains are responsible for almost 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine Gardasil also provides protection against two more strains of HPV. This helps in preventing about 90 percent of genital warts and vaginal cancers. The vaccine has been approved for both males and females from the age 9 to 26 years of age.
- The hormonal and physical changes your body goes through during pregnancy can lead to HPV outbreaks.
- If your newborn contracts HPV during birth and his/her immune system fails to clear up the virus, he/she may develop neonatal conjunctivitis.
- Even if you do not have noticeable symptoms, if you have the HPV virus your baby may contract the infection when passing through your birth canal.