Talking about common but at-times confusing STI is just another powerful way to reduce stigma and help everyone better understand our bodies. Jamie Otis (of Married at First Sight) took to instagram to talk a bit about her experience being diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) during pregnancy and a friendly reminder about regularly looking after your reproductive health.
In a video set to “I Will Survive” posted on instagram, Otis shared that after she and her husband had their son Hendrix in May, she was given word from her doctors that they’d found “high risk cells” in her postpartum checkup appointment.
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“I have HPV,” she wrote. “I found out when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy & had an ‘abnormal’ pap.🤰🏼They told me I’d have to wait until my 6 week check up after delivery to investigate further so I didn’t risk losing my baby.”
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note on their site: “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives.”
“At my 6 week check up I had another pap. It came back abnormal with ‘high risk’ cells. Sooo yesterday I had a colposcopy. When she finished the biopsy of my cervix she said that it’s likely I’ll need the LEEP procedure bc she could see the high risk, abnormal tissues,” she wrote. ”I am so fortunate to have caught this early. These ‘abnormal’ cells are what turn into full blown cancer.”
Per the National Cancer Institute, there are more than 200 different strains of both high- and low- risk sexually transmitted HPV types. Most low-risk types don’t lead to disease while others can cause genital warts or recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (benign tumors growing in the respiratory tract). There are about 14 high-risk HPV types, which can cause different types of cancer — including nearly all cases of cervical cancer.
However, as Planned Parenthood notes an abnormal result doesn’t immediately equal something scary: “An abnormal Pap test result means that there are abnormal cell changes on your cervix. This doesn’t mean that you definitely have cervical cancer. The changes may be minor (low-grade) or serious (high-grade). The more serious changes are often called precancerous because they aren’t cancer yet but can turn into it over time.”
Otis also mentioned situations with different friends (we all have them!) who have had HPV — including one who said their abnormal cervix situations cleared up after birth.
“If a Pap test was abnormal during pregnancy, the doctor will likely do another Pap test a few weeks after childbirth,” per WebMD. “Sometimes, the cervical cell changes go away after childbirth and no treatment is needed. Sometimes, genital warts also go away. If not, the doctor may recommend treatment after childbirth.”
So despite it being very common, HPV is something you do want to know about and to have a medical professional in the loop to keep track for your longterm health. That’s why Otis also took the time to remind us all that we’re never too busy for your pap smear. Of course, not everyone has the privilege, financial security or access to the healthcare they need, but there are ways to find free or more accessibly priced care (check out the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website for a map of locations in the U.S. with free or low-cost testing available.)
“Luckily for me, I got pregnant and they made me have a pap. Otherwise who knows when I would’ve had one. I didn’t always get my routine check ups bc I was so ‘busy,'” she said.”Don’t let life get too “busy” to get your check ups. I believe in my heart I’ll be perfectly fine, but man! To think if I hadn’t gotten pregnant these high risk cells would just be hanging out spreading inside me and I wouldn’t know any better bc there are no signs or symptoms.”
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