HPV is now considered the most common sexually transmitted infection among North Americans. The Center of Disease Control estimates that nearly everyone who is sexually active will have contracted a strain of HPV at some point in their lives.
With HPV being highly prevalent in the young female population and infertility now affecting one-fifth of couples trying to conceive worldwide, many wonder whether contracting HPV will negatively impact fertility.
Here, we outline the link and potential risks between HPV and fertility as well as some tips on what you can do about it.
The HPV Fertility Link
Most HPV infections do not pose fertility risks, but in some cases, they can.
A healthy immune system will typically clear an HPV infection within a few years. Leaving the cervix and reproductive system in health to conceive and carry a baby.
However, in the small percentage of HPV infections that do progress to cellular changes, lesions on the cervix, and inflammation have been associated with premature labor and low birth weight.
Recent research on HPV infections and fertility is finding a correlation between HPV infections and reduced fertility through a higher number of premature ruptures of the membrane and spontaneous abortions.
However, before you go sound your alarm bells, remember these studies are correlation-based, not causation. Many other factors can be contributing to this decline in fertility that was not identified in the study. More research is needed to make any conclusions that HPV does indeed reduce fertility.
Does Treatment of Cervical Dysplasia Affect Fertility?
Although most HPV infections will go away on their own, some require treatment that may affect the ability to conceive or reach full term in pregnancy.
Cryotherapy, cone biopsy and LEEP procedures remove cells on the cervix and change your cervical mucus production. Procedures may also cause stenosis, or narrow the cervix, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg and get fertilized.
The cervix may also weaken during treatment, leading to cervical insufficiency when your cervix widens and thins before coming to full term.
Most women do not ever reach the stage of cervical cancer or require treatment. Cell progression is caught easily in pap tests, and preventative measures can be taken. The recommendation for disease control and prevention is to get one pap test every three years to keep an eye on your cervical cells, and more frequently if you have ever had an abnormal pap test.
Can You Give HPV to Your Baby?
There is a very low risk of transmission of a pregnant woman’s HPV infection to a child. One study followed 153 pregnant women through their pregnancies, some of which had previous HPV infections, and some with newly diagnosed HPV diagnoses through their pregnancies.
Most pregnancies continue to full-term with no complications and babies are born with no signs of being carried by someone with an HPV infection.
HPV Infection in Men
There is growing interest in the impact of HPV in men and on male fertility in particular. Studies have found HPV infections are associated with reduced sperm quality, altering both motility and concentration of sperm.
It was also found that HPV infection decreased cell count of normal-shaped cells and increased levels of ani-sperm antibodies.
Nevertheless, research on the impact of HPV on male fertility is still developing and more research is needed to make any conclusions.
What Can You Do About It?
Fertility is impacted by a number of factors including hormones, stress, diet, age, lifestyle, etc. We know that taking proactive steps to protect and support your overall health and immune system will not only help fight off an HPV infection but foster a healthy home for a new life.
Making lifestyle changes like eating better, exercising, sleeping well, keeping your stress levels low, cutting out smoking, alcohol consumption, and other toxic components of your life, will not only help you clear an HPV infection but also benefit fertility.
Can I Take Papillex while Pregnant?
Papillex is a great supplement for you prior to pregnancy. It will help keep your immune system robust, fighting the HPV infection.
Papillex also contains supportive compounds like folic acid that helps with neural development and protects against birth defects. As well as vitamin C and E for a healthy immune system.
However, Papillex is not recommended during pregnancy due to the mixed carotenoids in the ingredient formula. While beta-carotene, great against HPV, has not been associated with any complications in pregnancy, high doses of vitamin A have been.
It is always important to consult your healthcare practitioner when taking any new supplements, especially if you are pregnant.
For more information, head to our HPV and Pregnancy article.