Pregnancy and Cervical Dysplasia
If you are pregnant, it is important to keep tabs on your general health and wellbeing. This includes remaining up-to-date on your sexual health. Cervical dysplasia is on the rise in North America, and if you are pregnant it is important to find out if you have it. Cervical dysplasia can usually be easily treated and typically has no adverse affects on pregnancy or baby. However, there are some complications associated with cervical dysplasia, which may threaten pregnancy or your babyï¿½s health.
What is Cervical Dysplasia?
Cervical dysplasia refers to the growth of abnormal cells on your cervix. Your cervix is located near the bottom of your uterus, and functions as the opening to your uterus. Cervical dysplasia is generally found during your annual pap smear.
Between 250,000 and 1 million women are diagnosed with some form of cervical dysplasia every year. Cervical dysplasia is often worrisome as it can indicate cancer or precancerous cells in your cervix. However, with proper treatment, a large percentage of women with cervical dysplasia never develop cancer.
Types of Cervical Dysplasia
Cervical dysplasia is classified according to its severity. There are three classes of cervical dysplasia:
- Mild cervical dysplasia: this is the most common type of cervical dysplasia. 70% of these cases resolve on their own, without treatment.
- Moderate cervical dysplasia: this type of dysplasia is more likely to require treatment and may progress to cancer.
- Severe cervical dysplasia: this generally indicates a more progressed form of dysplasia, and may indicate precancerous cells
Causes of Cervical Dysplasia
The cause of cervical dysplasia is still unknown, although there are a variety of factors that may contribute to the growth of abnormal cervical cells. These include:
- HPV infection, also known as genital warts
- HIV infection
- exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to pregnant women between 1938 and 1971
- long-term use of oral contraceptives (more than 5 years)
- cigarette smoking
- poor nutrition
Symptoms of Cervical Dysplasia
Unfortunately, there are generally no symptoms of cervical dysplasia; this is why it is so important to have an annual pap smear. Occasionally, though, cervical dysplasia is accompanied by some symptoms, including:
- genital warts
- irregular bleeding
- spotting after intercourse
- unusual vaginal discharge
- low back pain
Cervical Dysplasia Treatment
Mild cervical dysplasia is generally left untreated, because it can rectify itself. You may be given more frequent pap smears to keep an eye on any abnormal cervical cells. You may also receive colponoscopy, in which your cervical cells are viewed through a special microscope for any changes. If your abnormal cells disappear, you will not require treatment.
More severe forms of cervical dysplasia will require treatment in order to prevent cervical cancer. Treatment for cervical dysplasia generally involves surgery, and may include:
- electrocauterization, in which low voltage radio waves are run through a wire, which then removes abnormal tissues
- cryosurgery, in which carbon dioxide is used to freeze and kill abnormal cells
- ablation, in which a laser is used to destroy abnormal cells in the cervix
- cone biopsy, in which a cone-shaped tissue sample is surgically removed from the cervix
Complications of Cervical Dysplasia
In most cases, cervical dysplasia can be rectified through appropriate treatment. However, if you do not receive treatment you are at increased risk for developing cervical cancer. Between 30% and 60% of women with untreated moderate-to-severe cervical dysplasia develop cervical cancer within 10 years.
Some cervical dysplasia treatments are also associated with complications. Cone biopsy can threaten future fertility. It is possible that your cervix will tighten up after this procedure, preventing sperm from fertilizing your eggs. It is also possible that your cervix will become loose, which can increase your risks for preterm labor.
If You are Pregnant
If you have cervical dysplasia while you are pregnant, it is important to notify all of your health care providers. Sometimes, cervical dysplasia can get worse during pregnancy because of the increase of hormones in your body. However, a large percentage of pregnant women who are diagnosed with cervical dysplasia will recover after pregnancy, without any treatment.
You will be monitored during your pregnancy for any increase in your cervical dysplasia. You will probably receive two colponoscopies, so your health care provider can view your cervical cells. Colponoscopy has no adverse affects on pregnancy. Even if your cervical dysplasia begins to advance, you will not receive treatment during pregnancy. This is because of the risk of preterm labor associated with cervical dysplasia treatment. If your cervical dysplasia has not disappeared after delivery, you can begin treatment.
Effects on Baby
Having cervical dysplasia when you are pregnant will have no adverse affects on your baby. It is perfectly safe to wait to receive treatment until after you have delivered. However, if it is determined that your cervical dysplasia has been caused by an infection, such as HIV or genital warts, it is important to receive treatment for these diseases right away. HIV and genital warts can be passed on to your newborn, causing serious complications. Your health care provider will provide screening tests to see if you have these diseases.