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The HPV Vaccine Might Be Even Better Than We Thought

The HPV vaccine is becoming more popular despite fears of it causing infertility. A new study says this concern has no basis at all.

November 25, 2019
Lia Herman

As more American teenagers take the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, concern of the harmful effects of the HPV vaccine grows louder. However a new study led by a researcher from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) tells a different story, which may change the way we view the HPV vaccine forever.

This article covers:

  • What is the HPV and when you should get the vaccine
  • The suspicion over the HPV vaccine
  • What the new study suggests about the HPV vaccine
  • How the study influences us now

What is HPV and Who Gets the Vaccine?

HPV, which stands for human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with over 200 types known. It is usually harmless, but can progress into serious stages that causes genitial warts or can lead to cancer. HPV is more common than you may think, with many types showing no symptoms at all, leaving the infected individual unaware. Most genital HPV will go away on its own. There is no cure for HPV, but there are vaccines to prevent you from getting certain types, and treatments that keep HPV from negatively impacting your health. Condoms and dental dams won’t offer complete protection, but they do lower the risk of getting HPV.

The HPV vaccine is for all ages. Children should get two doses of the HPV vaccine. The first should be administered when the child is between the ages 11 to 12. The second dose should come six to 12 months after the first dose. The vaccine can be given as young as age nine. Children who start vaccination after they turn 15 will need three instead of two doses, which are given within six months. Teens and young adults should be vaccinated as well. Everyone up to the age of 26 can get the HPV vaccine. Ages 27 to 45 can get the vaccine after consulting their doctor, but will give less benefit as more people have already been exposed.

The Concern With the HPV Vaccine

HPV infection is known to cause symptoms of reduced semen quality and lower pregnancy rates, but some believe the HPV vaccine is also a cause of reduced fertility. Those that hold this concern are therefore worried that over 40 percent of American teenagers are receiving the HPV vaccine. However, a new study refutes this concern over the HPV vaccine by proving in some cases the HPV vaccine can actually improve fertility. 

A doctor filling a needle with fluid in a doctor's office
We’ve all been to the doctor and expected a shot. The HPV vaccine is being given to more American teenagers than ever before.

New Study on the HPV Vaccine

The study was published in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, and shares the conclusion found by the BUSPH researcher. The study found little overall correlation between the vaccine and fertility in men and women. Except in one instance, in which the vaccine actually improves fertility. Women who previously had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are prone to having lower fertility rates. Yet women who were vaccinated and have an STI history had the same chance of fertility as women who were unvaccinated and never had an STI. 

A woman standing outside near the water, holding her pregnant stomach
The study proves the HPV vaccine does not harm a woman’s potential for pregnancy, and actually improves fertility in women with an STI history.

The results of the study may indicate that the HPV vaccine protects fertility among individuals with a previous sexually transmitted infection. Data used in the study comes from the Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), a preconception cohort of North American pregnancy planners. The study -- which is still ongoing -- involves 3,483 women and 1,022 men. Their ages range from 21 to 45 years old, and all enrolled participants are actively trying to conceive. The participating women have a 33.9 percent population that has been vaccinated for HPV, while only 5.2 percent of the men have been vaccinated. Couples were followed for twelve months or until they accomplished pregnancy.  

How the Study Changes Things

The results of the study should reassure those that regard the HPV vaccine in the suspicion that the vaccine harms an individual’s fertility. The study not only disproves this, but also demonstrates HPV can improve fertility is certain individuals. Parents who have disallowed their children to get the HPV vaccine can be reassured that their concerns are not valid. Hopefully health providers will keep this study in consideration while giving advice to individuals and families who are considering the HPV vaccine. 

This study reassures the safety of the HPV vaccine and comforts the population about its growing use of it. The study not only has disproven a suspicion, but discovered a method for women with an STI history to improve their chances at pregnancy. The study continues its research in hopes of discovering further connections between the HPV vaccine and fertility.

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