I was diagnosed with HPV in 2007. The diagnosis came after a pre-conception check-up I’d had prior to commencing a full-on attempt to have a baby. Despite knowing how common HPV is and that, on its own, it is often benign, I was shaken. The diagnosis led to my first colposcopy (an exam that reminded me of the way my eye doctor gets a look at the back of my eye, only in my vagina) to ensure that there were no problems brewing. There were not, and I was sent on my way to conceive, deliver, and raise my beautiful son, with annual breaks for paps, of course. I knew that HPV is linked to cervical cancer and the incidence of HPV meant I needed to be vigilant about getting Pap tests to make sure no cancerous changes developed.
In 2009, my Pap revealed abnormal cells. Another colposcopy and a biopsy determined that they were high-grade precancerous abnormalities and should be removed before they had time to develop into cervical cancer. The beauty of screenings for HPV and Pap tests is that potential problems can be detected and resolved before cancer occurs. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified and worried. My doctor scheduled a LEEP, a procedure that removes a layer of cells from the cervix. The procedure went well, my worry abated, and I’ve had clean Paps ever since.
But now, I’m pregnant sans a layer of cervical cells. The LEEP is a common and safe procedure that saves lives, and nothing would have convinced me to forgo it. Cervical cancer kills almost 4,000 American women per year, and I was not willing to risk that. The benefits outweighed the risks for me — the risk being a higher likelihood of incompetent cervix in any future pregnancy.
I go to a large OB/GYN practice and will see a lot of doctors before the end of this pregnancy. The doctor who performed my LEEP has actually left the practice, so I don’t have her to help wave red flags about my cervix to her colleagues. That’s why I’ve been really adamant about reminding them of my history with cervical surgery. I may have even told one very nice doctor that this was the thing I would obsess about during this pregnancy because I’m neurotic. He was kind and told me that the risk of problems was very low, but they have protocols for keeping an eye on such things.
That protocol? It means internal exams every two weeks starting at 16 weeks gestation. Oh, and an extra sonogram specifically to measure my cervix for a baseline reading on how it’s holding up. (And they really only look at the cervix. The tech gave me a mere three-second look at the baby during that sono. Harumph.) In the event that my cervix starts to open prematurely, I could need a cerclage, which is doctor speak for “sewing your junk closed.” Seriously, it’s a stitch in the cervix to keep it closed. There’s also the possibility of bed rest or, heaven forbid, hospitalization in the event of pre-term labor.
I don’t love having my cervix poked by people I’m not married to, and I’m not totally sure how my insurance company is going to react to double the usual number of OB appointments for a healthy pregnancy. But a quick visit in the stirrups every 14 days to monitor for problems is a hell of a lot better than pre-term labor. And my insurance company can suck it. Office visits are cheaper than the NICU.
True to form, I’m obsessing about my cervix. You won’t find me bouncing on my son’s trampoline or lifting his 40-pound bulk from the ground, even if he’s having a raging tantrum in public and I want to physically haul him out. But, like everyone at my OB’s office keeps telling me, it will probably be fine. Fingers crossed that they’re right.
Have you been pregnant after a LEEP? Share your experience!
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