Giving Birth When You Have HPV

Image of family with baby

Can babies get HPV from birth? Do you need a C-section if you have HPV? These and other questions are on the minds of many HPV-positive pregnant women. Find out everything you need to know about giving birth when you have HPV.

Can HPV Cause Birth Defects?

There is no known link between HPV and birth defects. However, further study is needed in this area.

The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. Although the vaccine has not been found to cause any birth defects, the lack of research in this area leads doctors to take a cautious approach by delaying vaccination until after a woman has given birth.

Can You Pass HPV During Childbirth?

There is a possibility that you could pass HPV from mother to child while giving birth, though it’s unknown what level of risk is involved. According to one 2016 study, about 11% of children born to HPV-positive mothers were diagnosed with HPV by the age of three months. However, this was not a conclusive study and more research is needed.

In some case, babies born to HPV-positive mothers develop laryngeal papillomatosis (warts on the vocal cords or larynx). It may take about two to five years for the warts to develop. If necessary, surgery can help to correct the condition. This is a rare complication that only occurs in about one to four out of 100,000 births.

HPV & Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section

There’s no evidence that vaginal birth has a higher risk of transmission compared to cesarean section. However, HPV can cause genitals warts to grow in size and number. If these warts become so large that they obstruct part of the birth canal, a C-section may be needed.

  1. Human papillomavirus vaccine and pregnancy: National Institutes of Health, 2012. 
  2. Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
  3. STDs during Pregnancy – CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
  4. HPV Vaccine Recommendations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. 
  5. Pregnancy and sexually transmitted viral infections: National Institutes of Health, 2009.
  6. Human papillomavirus (HPV) perinatal transmission and risk of HPV persistence among children: Design, methods and preliminary results of the HERITAGE study: ScienceDirect, 2016.