What You Really Need To Know About Zika and Pregnancy
As the weather turns hot and muggy and family vacations are on the menu, you may be wondering what the latest recommendations about Zika virus are. It seems like just yesterday, Zika was all over the news, but there hasn't been as much talk lately about the dangers and the spread of Zika and especially Zika and pregnancy.
However, Zika is still a threat to pregnant women and women looking to conceive who have traveled to an area with Zika, or who have partners who have traveled to areas with Zika. Here's what we know so far:
It's best to wait to get pregnant, if you can. The virus can live in bodily fluids for longer than it does in the bloodstream, so a man can actually pass Zika through his sperm to a woman through sex, which is why the CDC recommends waiting at least six months before trying to conceive if you or your partner has traveled to an area with Zika.
Infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly. For a while, doctors weren't sure enough to say that Zika definitely caused microcephaly, but know they are confirming it, according to the CDC. Zika can cause microcephaly and other serious birth defects.
There's no known “safe” time to be exposed to Zika. We recently traveled to Mexico and although I wasn't planning on getting pregnant during our time there, I still worried about the chance, because it happens, right? Especially when margaritas are involved, ahem. Unfortunately, there is no known time when Zika is thought to be “safer” than others during pregnancy and it can cause damage through all three trimesters as far as doctors know now.
The CDC does recommend testing if you've traveled to an area with Zika. Although the official CDC recommendations encourage women who have been in a Zika-infested area who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant to get tested from their pregnancy provider, not all providers are equipped to provide the test. Especially if you live in an area that isn't familiar with Zika, your provider may not be familiar with the testing protocols. Your best bet may be to call your doctor first and ask what you should do before waiting all that time for an appointment. Also, not to alarm you, because the risk of Zika is very low, it is possible to get a negative test result if the virus has left the bloodstream but remains in bodily fluids (especially true for men).
Stay informed. The best bet if you're traveling or planning travel is to get educated about what areas are infested with Zika and don't be afraid to call the resort or hotel you're staying at to talk to someone local. Even within limited areas, some are more protected or at risk than others. You can also sign up to get text updates from the CDC so if you're traveling en route and something changes, they will let you know.
Overall, while the threat of Zika is still present, the overall incidence of Zika in the U.S. is still relatively low. That's not to say that Zika is not a threat, but it may be because people are being extra cautious about preventing Zika, which is definitely something we want to continue. So far, 1,963 women have had laboratory tests that may be positive for Zika. You can follow the updated numbers of these cases here and also follow the outcomes of what happened to those pregnancies. The latest counts show 80 babies born with defects in the U.S.