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HPV during pregnancy

02 March 2019
Volume 27 · Issue 3


In the run up to HPV Awareness Day on 4 March, Anthea Morris, Director of Better2Know, offers advice on the human papillomavirus and its implications during pregnancy

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is an organism that is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and frequently by vaginal, anal or oral sex. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies HPV as the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection and suggests that most people who are sexually active will contract some variety of the virus at some stage of their lives (CDC, 2017). There are more than 150 varieties of the HPV and, of those, 40 are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. The virus can affect a person's genitals, anal area, mouth or throat, so intercourse is not necessary for an infection to be passed on.

Depending on the type or strain of HPV, the infection can cause warts on and around the genitals or a range of different cancers. In women it can cause cervical and ovarian cancer. In both men and women, it can cause anal and oropharyngeal cancers. Fortunately, not all HPV infections cause warts or cancer and most infections will resolve by themselves with help from the body's own immune system; however, a person can carry an HPV infection without showing symptoms and can pass the virus on to sexual partners without knowing it.

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