Some research suggests that hormonal contraception may make cervical cells more susceptible to HPV. More research is needed to understand the potential link, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
But if the virus lingers, it can end up on the cells in the vulva, vagina, cervix, or anus. These cells can mutate and become cancerous if left untreated.
“Other types of hormonal birth control, like the implant, are not as well studied in this respect because they’re newer,” says Colleen Denny, MD, OB-GYN, director of family planning at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn.
To be clear: Hormonal birth control does not cause HPV.
You can only contract HPV through partnered sexual contact. You cannot contract HPV by taking birth control pills or using other forms of hormonal contraception.
Intimate sexual contact without a condom or other barrier method can increase your risk of HPV and other STIs.
Although contracting HPV is the biggest risk factor for developing cervical cancer, this cancer can develop for a number of reasons.
According to the
- having a weakened or compromised immune system
- taking immunosuppressant medications
- a past or current chlamydia infection
- having three or more full-term pregnancies
- having a full-term pregnancy before the age of 25
- having a parent who took diethylstilbestrol while pregnant with you
- a family history of cervical cancer
For example, people ages 15–26 can benefit from a three-dose protocol. Consult a healthcare professional to learn more if you’re between 27 and 45. While not always recommended for this age group, your doctor may recommend it based on your individual needs.
“You should also use barrier protection (like condoms or dental dams) during oral sex,” adds Ton.
Routine Pap smears can help you stay on top of any unusual changes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends getting a Pap smear once every 3 years, beginning at age 21.
Healthcare professionals typically do not recommend separate HPV testing unless you have an abnormal Pap smear result.
If you’re considering or currently use hormonal contraception, it’s wise to consider the potential benefits and risks.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should rule out hormonal birth control pills as your method of choice, notes Ton.
“Oral contraception offers many benefits, such as preventing pregnancy, helping with acne, and easing irregular [or] painful periods,” says Ton.
She adds that birth control pills may also
“It’s important to take in the whole context of your health (including family history, habits, and activities) before deciding which birth control makes the most sense for you,” says Ton.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.