HPV May Hamper Infertility Treatment

Women with one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases may have a much harder time getting pregnant using infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

A new study shows women with the human papillomavirus (HPV) were less than half as likely to become pregnant after using IVF than women without the infection.

Researchers say the relationship between HPV and infertility is unclear.

HPV has several different strains, some of which are responsible for genital warts, abnormal Pap tests, and lead to cervical cancer.

HPV and Infertility Treatment

In the study, published in Fertility and Sterility, researchers screened a group of 106 women for HPV. The women had been scheduled for infertility treatment with IVF and had already tested negative to other sexually transmitted diseases. Seventeen of the women (16%) tested positive for HPV.

A year later, the results showed that only 23.5% of the women with HPV had become pregnant via IVF compared with 57% of the HPV-negative women.

They note that the quality and number of embryos were not different between the two groups of women.

Researchers Steven D. Spandorfer, MD, of the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and colleagues say the mechanism behind the link between HPV and IVF failure is up to speculation.

But women seeking infertility treatment who are in a monogamous relationship may have an impaired immune system that is unable to clear the HPV virus. This may also make it more difficult for embryo implantation to occur.

Researchers say the results suggest testing for HPV may become a useful addition to the screening tests done for IVF treatment and help doctors advise their patients.

SOURCES: Spandorfer, S. Fertility and Sterility, September 2006; vol 86: pp 765-767. News release, American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang