It can be very worrying to get diagnosed with a new-onset sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship. If this happens to you, it makes sense to think that your partner must have been unfaithful recently — after all, how else does one get an STD? But you may be surprised to learn that this isn’t always the case, and that you can experience new symptoms of an STD even if no one cheats in your relationship.
Keep reading this STDWatch.com post to find out how a married woman can get HPV.
How does a married woman get HPV?
If you learn that you have an STD, such as HPV, after years of being in an exclusive relationship with another person, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and think that someone must have cheated. This is, of course, one of the possibilities, but it’s not the only way for a married woman to get HPV.
Getting an HPV diagnosis when you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship doesn’t automatically mean that someone was unfaithful. In fact, the HPV virus can remain dormant and completely asymptomatic for many years. According to the NHS, HPV that is dormant won’t cause any health problems, and you can have it even if you haven’t had a new sexual partner in many years.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus, commonly referred to as HPV, is a type of virus that can affect humans. HPV can cause skin and genital warts, and it can also lead to precancerous lesions and different types of cancer.
There are many different strains of HPV, but just two of them (HPV-16 and HPV-18) cause the majority of HPV-related cancers, and another two types (HPV-6 and HPV-11) cause approximately 90 percent of HPV warts.
According to the CDC, HPV is the most common STD in the United States. In fact, HPV is so common that practically every sexually active person will get HPV at some point in their lives, unless they receive the HPV vaccine.
How long can HPV remain dormant?
Many people with HPV will never exhibit any signs of the infection. According to a study published by the journal Women’s Health, approximately 65 to 80 percent of women with HPV can clear the infection completely within 6 to 12 months. There are several factors that can impact HPV clearance, including:
- HPV type
- Initial treatment
- Sexual behaviors
However, it’s completely impossible to accurately predict who will be able to clear the infection and who won’t. Not exhibiting symptoms of HPV after being exposed to it doesn’t necessarily mean that your immune system cleared the infection on its own — it can also mean that the virus went dormant and it could potentially cause health problems in the future.
According to an article published by the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, HPV can remain dormant for anywhere from 10 to 15 years. That means that although infidelity is a possibility, a married woman with new-onset HPV could have been infected by a previous partner a long time before any symptoms appear.
According to The New Zealand HPV Project, even people who haven’t been sexually active for many years can suddenly develop manifestations of HPV, such as genital warts or abnormal Pap smears.
H2 HPV screening
HPV can’t be cured, but its symptoms and complications can be managed or prevented. The best way to do this is to get regular HPV screening according to medical guidelines. These guidelines will vary depending on your age, risk factors, and personal history.
According to the HPV and cervical cancer screening recommendations posted by National Cancer Institute, everyone with a cervix should receive:
- A Pap smear every 3 years from the ages of 25 to 65 years old
- HPV testing every 5 years from the ages of 25 to 65 years old
- HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years from the ages of 25 to 65 years old
- No screening after the age of 65 years old if previous tests were normal
- People with a higher risk of cervical cancer due to immunosuppression should be tested more frequently
- People with a previous history of a serious pre-cancer lesion should receive screening for 25 years after the initial lesion, even if this goes beyond the age of 25 years old
Pap smears have been the primary test to diagnose HPV and cervical cancer for a very long time. However, newer HPV tests have been approved in recent years, and they can detect HPV long before it causes any pre-cancerous lesions. Following these testing guidelines is the best way to detect the earliest signs of HPV so you can get the appropriate treatment and prevent future health complications.
Receiving a diagnosis of HPV can be quite scary, especially since HPV can be a precursor for different types of cancer. And if you’re in a monogamous relationship, you may start to worry about potential cheating. However, you should keep in mind that HPV can remain dormant for many years, and you may have gotten it from a previous partner without knowing. Fortunately, HPV testing can help you catch any signs of HPV as early as possible.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) - nhs.uk
- Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet - cdc.gov
- Clearance and persistence of the human papillomavirus infection among Cameroonian women - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- I Have HPV. Does That Mean That My Husband Cheated on Me? Answering Women’s Questions About HPV - onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- ACS’s Updated Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Explained - cancer.gov