HPV and breastfeeding: Safety and transmission

But, for most women with HPV, breastfeeding is safe, and the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

In this article, learn more about the safety and risks, as well as how HPV is transmitted.

Can you breastfeed if you have HPV?

Human papillomavirus or HPV is so common that almost all sexually active people contract the virus at some point.

It does not usually cause severe symptoms in an infected person. However, some strains of HPV are risk factors for several types of cancer.

Research suggests that HPV is responsible for:

  • 90 percent of cervical and anal cancers
  • 70 percent of cancers of the vagina and vulva
  • 60 percent plus of penile cancers

Despite these risks, few organizations have issued official guidelines about breastfeeding with HPV, possibly because HPV is very common, and the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks. No organization recommends avoiding breastfeeding because of HPV.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urge mothers to breastfeed unless they have HIV or must use particular drugs and medications. The AAP also emphasize that breastfeeding offers numerous health benefits, especially to vulnerable or sick infants and preterm babies. Additionally, it can save money and support long-term health in the breastfeeding woman.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health say that HPV is not a reason to avoid breastfeeding.

A 2016 study found that 45 percent of pregnant women had HPV. Abstaining from breastfeeding because of HPV would significantly reduce the overall breastfeeding rate. Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for a baby and can support long-term public health.

There is no cure for HPV, but treatment is available if the virus causes any symptoms. Most people with HPV have no signs, and it usually goes away on its own. If HPV causes genital warts, a doctor can prescribe treatment.

While safe sex practices can reduce the spread of the virus, they are not a fail-safe method of prevention. The best option for preventing HPV is having a vaccination against the virus.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend giving the vaccine to breastfeeding women 26 years old and younger when they have not previously received a vaccination.

The latent virus used in the HPV vaccine will not cause HPV to develop in breast milk and will not spread HPV to a breastfeeding baby.

Parents and caregivers should also consider vaccinating their children — both boys and girls — against HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccinating children between the ages of 11 and 12 years old.


Women who are concerned about the risk of HPV in breast milk should talk to a doctor who knows their medical history.

For most infants, breastfeeding offers health benefits that outweigh the possible risks associated with exposure to HPV in breast milk.

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