Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Definition - What does Human Papillomavirus (HPV) mean?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are a variety of strains of the infection, some of which are symptomatic, others that cause health problems such as genital warts or cancer. Some studies show that HPV may also impact fertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is spread through unprotected sexual intercourse, anal sex or oral sex with someone who is infected. HPV is transmissible even if the infected person is not experiencing symptoms.

While the impact of HPV on pregnancy and fertility is still being tested, studies have demonstrated there may be a connection between the infection and negative pregnancy or fertility outcomes.

In men, HPV is shown to damage the quality of sperm. On average, sperm count, sperm motility and sperm morphology are more likely to be less viable when produced by men with HPV than men without HPV. Women with HPV demonstrate a higher likelihood of miscarriage or premature membrane rupturing.

Additionally, HPV that leads to cervical cancer has the potential to disrupt female fertility. Cervical cancer treatment, including the removal of precancerous or cancerous cells from the cervix, can cause long-term cervical trauma or scarring (cervical stenosis) which may impair the ability to become pregnant or carry a baby to term. Treatment may also disrupt the cervix's ability to produce cervical mucus, a vital component of reproduction.

While there is no cure for HPV, it can be prevented in the following ways:

  • Vaccination
  • STD testing prior to unprotected intercourse
  • Using condoms during every sexual encounter
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