Page modified at: 14/03/2010
Genital Warts and Pregnancy
Genital warts are brought about by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Most pregnant women who have been infected with HPV and have had genital warts in the past usually have healthy pregnancies and uncomplicated deliveries. However, the virus can be passed on both before and during birth in women who currently have genital warts. Although not always curable, they do not usually pose a major risk to your baby’s health during pregnancy.
What is the effect of pregnancy on genital warts?
The symptoms of genital warts get worse during pregnancy since the immune system gets suppressed normally during this period, making the woman more susceptible to infections and viruses. Thus, genital warts may become larger during pregnancy.
The main concern is that the unborn baby of a mother infected with genital warts may contract laryngeal papillomatosis, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of this disease can lie dormant for as long as three years following birth. Laryngeal papillomatosis is when warts develop in the mouth and throat area of the baby. This may happen when the virus gets passed on through a contaminated birth canal. Since the mouth and throat area are warm and moist, they provide an excellent breeding ground for HPV. The virus thus resides in those places and multiplies at a fast rate. If a baby does become infected with laryngeal papillomatosis, laser surgery is required at regular intervals to eliminate it so that it would not obstruct breathing. Interferon therapy may also be used side-by-side with laser surgery in order to further slow down the course of the said disease.
Prolems with delivering vaginally
Another main concern about having genital warts is that depending on the warts’ location, they may become so big that they make a vaginal birth impossible for some infected women, and a caesarean section may be required
Treatment of genital warts in pregnancy
The treatment options for genital warts for pregnant women are different than those for other women. Pregnant women should not apply any over-the-counter treatments for genital warts prior consultation with a doctor. Most over-the-counter medications for genital warts are salicylic acid-based, making them harmful to the unborn baby. Furthermore, some prescription medications, such as podofilox, may cause birth defects since their chemical contents are easily absorbed through the skin. If you are pregnant and you think you have genital warts, it would be best to consult your obstetrician. He/she can recommend a treatment plan that is effective and safe for you and your baby.