Sexual Health : Ask Dr. Laura Berman Can Genital Warts Be Spread Without Sexual Contact?

Q: Is there any way to get genital warts without sexual contact — for example, by using public restrooms or swimming in a public pool?
— Mary, Texas
Dr. Laura Berman A:  Genital warts can only be spread through such skin-to-skin contact as occurs during oral, vaginal, manual, or anal sex. Additionally, if a pregnant woman has genital warts, she can pass the virus that causes these warts on to her baby if she delivers vaginally. Also, keep in mind that if your partner is infected but has no symptoms or is not experiencing a breakout, he or she can still spread the virus. Furthermore, even if you have the virus and never have a breakout of genital warts, it can still lead to cervical cancer and even infertility.
So how do you stay safe? Abstinence is the only way to be 100 percent safe. If you do have sex, always use a condom (during intercourse and oral sex) or a dental dam (during oral sex). Unfortunately, however, condom use cannot entirely guarantee the prevention of warts, because the skin is not completely covered.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Sexual Health Center.

Laura Berman, PhD, is a leading sex and relationship educator and therapist, popular TV and radio host, New York Times best-selling author, and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

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