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 smooth birthing experiences. However, the virus can be passed on both before and during birth in women who currently have genital warts. The good news though is that even if they are not curable, genital warts do not pose a major risk to your baby’s health during pregnancy.
The occurrence of genital warts while pregnant can be a foremost basis of apprehension for mothers to be. It puts the unborn child at risk of getting the infection. There is also a chance that genital warts can be passed along to newborn babies through a contaminated birth canal.
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.
Another main concern about having genital warts is that depending on the warts’ location, they may bring about complications during childbirth. Having genital warts can make a vaginal birth impossible for infected women. There are cases wherein genital warts become so big that they obstruct the birth canal and cause the mother to have great difficulty in delivering the baby. Furthermore, the warts may hemorrhage as the baby goes out in birth. If it is found that the warts completely obstruct the birth canal or if there is a risk of excessive bleeding of the genital warts during birth, a caesarean section may be called for.
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.