Can HPV Cause Infertility?

Submitted by Kate Seldman Tue 04/26/2011
The human papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts, but may also have no symptoms. By itself, HPV isn’t generally thought to cause infertility. However, if it’s left untreated, it can cause other problems that may lead to infertility. HPV can create precancerous cells in the cervix. These cells need to be removed: this is usually done by freezing, burning or biopsying them. These treatments can leave scarring on the cervix, which may stop sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing eggs. Treatment of precancerous cervical cells can also hinder the production of cervical mucus, which sperm need to survive. If there’s too little cervical mucus, it leads to an inhospitable environment around the cervix, and sperm can’t live long enough to swim to an egg. Treatment of precancerous cells can also weaken a woman’s cervix, especially if a lot of tissue needs to be removed. The woman may end up with a condition called incompetent cervix. Even if an egg is fertilized and pregnancy is achieved, miscarriage is more likely, because the cervix might open before it’s time to give birth. If precancerous cells become cancerous, fertility is much more likely to be affected. Chemotherapy can stop a woman from ovulating, and she may never start again. She can choose to freeze some of her eggs before beginning treatment, and then use these eggs to create a pregnancy once she’s done with chemo. This can sidestep problems with cervical scarring and lack of ovulation. HPV can also affect men’s fertility: sperm count and mobility can decrease, making it less likely that a man’s sperm will be able to fertilize a woman’s egg. There’s now a vaccine for HPV: its name is Gardasil, and its maker, Merck, has been pushing for it to be given to all preteen girls, to protect them against the STD. However, the natural health movement is concerned that Gardasil may cause infertility – it contains polysorbate 80, which is associated with infertility in mice. As yet, though, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence to confirm this suspicion.

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