Pregnancy involves hormonal changes that predispose a pregnant woman to infections because it renders her in an immunocompromised state. According to research, during the course of pregnancy, the immune system swivels in many ways, leaving some pregnant women highly susceptible to opportunistic pathogens, such as the genital wart-causing Human Papillomavirus or HPV. Usually, a pregnant woman’s immune system is not effective or strong enough as it used to be to fight infections. Once the genital warts develop, they are more prone to increase their size and number.
Most people think that genital warts decrease the chances of becoming pregnant. Genital warts are not known to cause infertility in both men and women. However, having genital warts during pregnancy can result in other negative effects. The condition increases a pregnant woman’s expenses to avail of the drugs needed to resolve the condition. Emotional stress is also experienced by the expectant mother since genital warts pose a great deal of risks for her unborn child, especially during delivery. Premature labor and miscarriage among the HPV-infected pregnant women have been reported though more solid evidences are needed to fully establish the associations between these conditions.
Mode of Transmission
The mode of transmission from mother to child is not completely understood. Infection has been reported during prenatal and postnatal period. However, there is strong evidence that a vertical route of transmission of the HPV is a rare occurrence. Most of the time, with proper treatment and management, most babies of infected mothers are delivered healthy and are HPV-free. Women who have had infection in the past and were properly treated should not be worried because most of the time, infected women deliver healthy babies.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of genital warts in a pregnant women is not at all different from a what a non-pregnant woman experiences. The most common complaint of most patients, pregnant or not, is the growth of lesions themselves, followed by abnormal vaginal discharge and vaginal pruritus or itchiness. At times, bleeding after sexual intercourse, pain and burning sensation in the affected area are also reported.
Genital Wart Management and Treatment During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant and you notice small, flat and cauliflower-like lesions growing on your genital area, first and foremost, do not touch them! You might spread the virus to the different parts of your body just by doing this. Consultation with your obstetrician should be your top priority so that a proper treatment regimen will be given to you. You need the guidance of a healthcare professional to plan on how you will be delivering your baby. During normal spontaneous delivery, the vaginal wall undergoes a great deal of stretching in preparation for the passage of the newborn. Genital warts on the vaginal wall may affect its distensibility and elasticity, which could result in difficult and prolonged labor. This is the reason why most pregnant women who have genital warts are recommended to deliver through a caesarean section.
Many of the usual treatment modalities for genital warts are contraindicated for use in pregnancy. The safety of most drugs on the developing baby has not been fully established. And so, for an infected pregnant woman, cryosurgery is the most commonly used treatment modality for genital warts. Obstetricians advocate the removal of these lesions to prevent proliferation and bleeding as the lesions are friable. If vaginal lesions are present, a caesarean section should be considered to avoid excessive bleeding of the lesions during the birth process. Also, a caesarean section can avoid the possibility of the newborn to have or acquire laryngeal papillomatosis, or infection of the vocal cords, brought about by the human papilloma virus types 6 and 11. This condition can lead to respiratory distress or even death. However, no controlled studies have been done in order to prove that caesarean delivery decreases the incidence of this possibility.