can you explain what genital warts are & how you catch them? is there a cure, do they stay dormant or do you know right away that you caught them? are they the same in men & women? can they be passed to a baby when pregnant?

Genital warts are growths that can appear around the genital area — the vulvas, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, or scrotum — or in the mouth. They are caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

There are over 40 types of genital HPV, and most genital warts are caused by two types. They’re passed from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact, during any kind of sex. It’s possible to spread genital warts even when no warts are visible. And there is a very low risk that a mother with genital warts will transmit HPV to her baby during childbirth.

Genital warts usually develop six weeks to six months after infection, but it may take longer. Only your health care provider can correctly diagnose genital warts. They’re similar in men and women, but in women, genital warts are often seen during a pelvic exam. A lot of times, people mistake other infections and conditions for genital warts, which is why it’s important to have any bumps you notice checked out by a health care provider.

There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting genital warts. You can get the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which protects against the two types of HPV that cause 90 percent of all cases of genital warts — and 70 percent of those that cause cervical cancers. You can also avoid any kind of sex that involves skin-to-skin contact. For oral sex on a woman, you can use Sheer Glyde dams, dental dams, cut-open condoms, or plastic wrap to reduce the risk of infection. If you choose to have vaginal or anal intercourse, use condoms every time to reduce your risk of infection.