As soon as your daughter becomes sexually active, she will be at risk for HPV. The best time to talk to your daughter about HPV infection and the problems it can cause is before she becomes sexually active. Consider talking to your daughter about HPV as part of "the sex talk."

But even if your daughter has already started sexual activity, it's not too late to talk about HPV! There are still many things you can do to help protect her against HPV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Key points to tell your daughter about HPV:

  • HPV can cause cervical cancer, genital warts, vulvar or vaginal cancer, abnormal cervical and vaginal cells (which may develop into cancer), and other cancers. Though there are treatments for these health problems, there is no cure.
  • HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact with the genital area of an infected person during sexual activity. The virus can be spread even if she doesn't actually have sex.
  • Condoms can help protect against HPV, and it's a good idea to use them for all types of sexual activity. But condoms do not completely protect against HPV because they do not cover all of the affected skin areas.
  • Being in a monogamous relationship won't necessarily protect your daughter from getting HPV. She or her partner may already have caught HPV from genital contact during a previous relationship.
  • There are a few things she can do to protect herself: use a condom and limit her number of sexual partners; have regular checkups, which include Pap tests as recommended by her doctor. (Once she is sexually active, she should have a Pap test within 3 years of her first time having sex or by age 18, whichever comes first. Pap test is one of the best ways to screen for abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer.). She should also consider having HPV vaccination, which helps protect against certain types of HPV.

Feeling awkward? Many people find sex an awkward topic of conversation, but it's important to get over your discomfort and talk frankly with your daughter about HPV - her health could be at stake.

How can you make it easier to talk to your daughter?

  • Car time: Many parents find that "car time" is a good time to reach their children. While driving in the car, just the 2 of you, casual conversation can become more meaningful without the outside interruptions of everyday life.
  • A planned regular date: Whether it's breakfast before school or coffee on a Saturday afternoon, regular mom-and-daughter time lets your daughter know that she has your uninterrupted attention during your date. This can be a good time to broach the subject of HPV.
  • Get your doctor involved: Encourage your daughter to ask questions, do her own research, and speak to her doctor about all of the ways to protect herself from HPV.

By talking to your daughter about HPV, you're taking a big step in helping to protect her from cervical cancer, genital warts, and other serious health problems. This information can save her life!