Can an Abnormal Pap or HPV Prevent Pregnancy?

April 28, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Merieme Klobocista, M.D. contributes to topics such as Gynecologic Oncology.

Having an abnormal pap smear isn’t a time to spiral into panic or despair, but rather a time to gain better understanding of your reproductive health. If your abnormal pap indicates the likelihood of human papillomavirus (HPV)—the most common sexually transmitted infection—it won’t directly affect your ability to conceive or safely give birth to a healthy baby.

There are typically no symptoms of HPV, but genital warts can be a sign of a type of HPV that may be present in the body. “HPV has more than 100 different strains and can show up in different ways depending on the individual,” says Merieme Klobocista, M.D., gynecologic oncology surgeon at John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center. “Usually, having HPV has no major impact to health, but if left untreated, it can turn into something more serious.”

Treatment Considerations

About 10% of women with HPV infection on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer.

If precancerous cells are found and need to be treated, certain treatment options may present challenges when it comes to safely giving birth to a healthy baby.

“Cryotherapy, laser therapy or LEEP [loop electrosurgical excision procedure], while all safe methods, can ultimately impact the strength of the cervix and increase the risk of preterm birth or even miscarriage,” says Stephanie Scianni, D.O., Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Even after precancerous cells have been removed, it is still possible for women who have undergone any of these procedures to conceive and deliver a healthy baby; they just may be under a careful watch.

“Ultrasounds are the best method for monitoring the health of the cervix during pregnancy,” Dr. Scianni says. “If necessary, the mother may be placed on bed rest until it is time for delivery.”

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.