Zika Virus and Pregnancy

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that typically produces only a mild reaction in healthy adults, but has been associated with microcephaly – a birth defect marked by a smaller than normal head and underdeveloped brain – and other neurological defects in children born to women infected with the virus during pregnancy.

 

About Zika

Health officials have been aware of the virus since around 1947, but in the past year, the virus has been on the rise. In May 2015, Brazil reported a significant outbreak of Zika along with a spike in the number of babies born with microcephaly. Cases of Zika have since been reported in at least 58 countries, including the U.S.

 

How does Zika spread?

Zika is most commonly spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Once bitten, individuals are contagious, and Zika can be passed to others through contact with body fluids like blood and semen.

There have been a number of reports of women who contracted Zika through unprotected sex with an infected man. Zika can also be transferred from mother to baby during pregnancy.

 

Zika and pregnancy

Health officials have confirmed there is clear evidence that contracting the Zika virus during pregnancy can lead to microcephaly in newborns. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also linked the virus to other severe brain defects and birth defects including eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth in infants exposed to the virus while in the womb.

There is no evidence that a Zika infection in a woman who is not pregnant increases the risk of birth defects in future pregnancies, once the virus has cleared from her blood.

 

Protection from Zika

If you live in an area with Zika and are not pregnant but wish to become pregnant, you should talk with your gynecologist or fertility specialist about the potential risk of Zika. If you are currently pregnant, avoid travel to areas with known cases of Zika. If travel is necessary, talk with your gynecologist or fertility specialist about strict procedures to prevent mosquito bites.

To avoid contracting Zika through sex, pregnant women are advised to abstain from sex with partners who have traveled to Zika-affected areas for a period of 8 weeks. If you do have sex, be sure to use condoms correctly every time for vaginal, oral or anal sex. Males who have symptoms of Zika should abstain from sex for a period of 6 months.

If you are pregnant and become infected with Zika, your gynecologist will monitor you closely. There is no medication for the treatment of Zika, but pregnant women who have the virus are advised to get plenty of rest, increase fluids to prevent dehydration and discuss with their doctors whether or not to take medication to reduce fever and/or pain.

All women, regardless of whether or not they are pregnant, are advised to take steps to prevent mosquito bites including:

 

 

If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant and have traveled to a Zika-affected area, report this information to your gynecologist, even if you do not feel ill or have no symptoms. If you do develop symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain or redness of the eyes; contact your gynecologist right away.

Your gynecologist may recommend blood tests, ultrasound or additional testing to monitor the health and safety of you and your baby.

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