HPV, Genital Warts, and Pregnancy

Pregnant woman with doctor
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Genital warts are soft, fleshy growths, alone or in clusters, in the genital area. It can also be on the cervix. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Though you can have HPV and not have warts, in fact, half the women who have HPV do not have symptoms. There are more than 100 types of HPV that have been recognized, about a third of these can be spread through sexual contact. Some types of HPV can also cause cervical and other genital cancers. There are about 5.5 million cases new cases of sexually transmitted HPV infections, and 20 million people in the United States are already infected.

How Do You Get Genital Warts?

Genital warts can be spread through all types of sexual contact: oral, anal, and genital sex with an infected partner. It's more common for women to get genital warts, and simply not being able to see warts doesn't mean you can't get them. It is possible to get genital warts in the throat after oral sex with an infected partner.


A Pap smear and physical exam is the only way to diagnose genital warts. This is screened for usually in the very first prenatal visit. You may also need a colposcopy, which uses a special device to look intensely and closely to the cervix and the walls of the vagina for genital warts, HPV, and other anomalies.


The warts themselves may disappear, or they could grow into clusters of warts. And simply because warts disappear doesn't mean that the HPV is gone, in fact, even after warts seem to be gone, they can come back. Smaller warts may be frozen off in a process called cryosurgery, or burned off via laser or cautery - these options are safe in pregnancy. There are also topical creams, though may an not safe for use in pregnancy. But if your genital warts are diagnosed prior to pregnancy, this may open up other treatments for you.

Genital Warts in Pregnancy

The good news is that genital warts themselves do not pose a problem to your pregnancy. After talking to your doctor or midwife, you may decide to wait for treatment until after the pregnancy, since some treatment options aren't available while you are still pregnant. Though sometimes, because of the increased blood flow, genital warts my flourish and grow more quickly on your body during the pregnancy.

If you have active genital warts at the time you give birth, it is highly unlikely to interfere with your vaginal delivery. Nor is your baby likely to contract the virus through birth.


Genital warts and HPV can be prevented by abstaining from all forms of sexual activity. It can also be prevented by having you and your sexual partners screened prior to sexual contact. Barrier methods like the male and female condom may reduce the likelihood of transmission but do not take it to zero. There is also the HPV vaccines, like Gardasil or Cervarix. These are available for young women and men, but should not be given during pregnancy.

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Article Sources
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  • Genital Warts in Pregnancy. March of Dimes. September 2013. Last Accessed February 25, 2016.
  • Hamouda T, Freij MA, Saleh M. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2012;39(2):242-4. Management of genital warts in pregnancy.
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