Zika and Pregnancy
With the games in Rio underway, the only thing you may hear more than the US National Anthem is talk about the Zika virus and the dangers it presents, especially for pregnant or women who may become pregnant. We wanted to share some info about the Zika virus so you’re aware, especially if you might be traveling to affected areas, or if you partner might be returning from those areas.
Some things we know about the Zika Virus
- The most common way it is transferred is from a mosquito bite.
- It has been discovered that it can be transferred through sex.
- A pregnant woman can pass it to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.
- Symptoms of a Zika infection are usually mild and last 2-7 days. They can include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis.
- Zika infections can be confirmed by blood or urine testing.
Some things we don’t know yet about the Zika Virus
- We don’t know how likely a pregnant woman is to get Zika if exposed.
- We don’t know what the chances are that she will pass it to the baby.
- We don’t know if the baby is infected, how likely it might cause birth defects.
- We don’t know when during the pregnancy these affects can occur.
- We don’t know if sexual transmission of Zika poses the same risks as contracting it thought a mosquito bite.
Zika and Birth Defects
Zika has been studied since May of 2015, when Brazil began to experience a large outbreak of the Zika virus that has been tied to Microcephaly and other brain defects. You can learn more about Microcephaly at this CDC website, but essentially it causes the baby to develop a smaller head due to lack of brain growth during the pregnancy, or for the brain to stop growing after birth. This can occur alone, or can be in combination with other brain defects as well as eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.
How to Protect Against Zika When Pregnant
If you’re pregnant there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your baby. If you live in an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites, take steps to prevent getting infected through sex, and see a doctor and take care of yourself if you do become infected.
If you’re pregnant and don’t live in an area with Zika, avoid travel to those areas where it is present. The CDC has a list of areas affected that is regularly updated. If you do have to travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and follow all steps for preventing mosquito bites. Steps such as wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, staying in places with air conditioning and window and door screens. You should also use insect repellants approved for pregnant women and you should stay away from mosquito breeding sites such as standing water.
How to Protect Against Zika if You’re Not Pregnant
Avoid travel to Zika infected locations as well as sex with anyone who has recently travelled to those locations. If you live in an area with Zika and are having symptoms, the CDC recommends that you should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant. If your partner has a Zika infection, you should wait at least six months after symptoms start before trying to get pregnant. Talking to your doctor is also important as is staying up to date on new information about Zika on the CDC website. Based on available information, the CDC does not believe that the Zika virus poses a risk for birth defects in future pregnancies after the virus has been cleared from a non-pregnant woman’s blood.
There is still a lot for us to learn about the Zika virus. The CDC website is a good resource to stay up to date, especially if you are at a higher risk for contracting the virus. As always, if you think you might have Zika or are experiencing symptoms, it is always a good idea to see your doctor or medical provider for testing.