Pregnancy & Zika

Pregnancy & Zika

by Cheryl Smitherman DNP, CNM
Women’s Wellness at Flower Mound

The Zika virus is terrifying for pregnant women.  This is not helped by the fact that our knowledge of this virus is evolving and considered very incomplete. Infection with Zika during pregnancy is known to cause miscarriage and birth defects such as microcephaly, intracranial calcifications as well as other brain and eye abnormalities. Transmission of the virus to humans is performed primarily by the Aedes species of mosquitos. These mosquitos are especially troublesome as they bite during the day as well as dusk and dawn. Avoidance of areas known to have infected mosquito populations is the best strategy for prevention of infection.

Zika was first reported in 2015 out of South America.  It has now spread into many areas. You can visit the CDC web site and view the “CDC’s interactive world map of areas with Zika risk” to see which areas pregnant women should avoid traveling to. Pregnant women and their unborn children have the highest risk. Avoidance of endemic or areas known to provide local infection is very important. Using insect repellent such as DEET and permethrin is safe and encouraged. Wearing long sleeved clothing is helpful as well. Sexual transmission is also possible. Condom use or abstinence is recommended for pregnant women and women wishing to become pregnant. The male partner needs to have been out of the at risk area for 6 months before having unprotected intercourse. Women should not try to become pregnant until 8 weeks have passed since their last possible exposure. These guidelines are based on the limited information we have.

A difficulty with testing for this infection is that only 1 in 5 people infected shows symptoms of the infection.

The incubation period from the time of infection is 3-14 days. The symptoms to look for are acute onset of fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. People are labeled “infected” if they have any of the preceding symptoms and a positive Zika test. At this time routine testing for Zika is not recommended for women or men without clinical signs of illness and possible Zika exposure because of the limitations of testing. Please see your provider if you are concerned.

The best prevention is avoidance. Women who are considering pregnancy soon or are pregnant should not travel to any at risk areas. More information can be found at your doctor’s office and on the CDC’s website.

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