Prior to 2015, the Zika virus occurred primarily in some nations of South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. More recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has expanded the list of countries affected by Zika to include the United States. Although it is not normally a life-threatening virus, there are some threats to women undergoing fertility treatments and attempting to conceive. Learn how Zika virus and pregnancy can be a dangerous combination, and how you can avoid any threat.
What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947, but recently, more cases have been diagnosed in humans. With no current medications or vaccines available, the virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito residing in certain countries (visit the CDC website for the most current list of countries).
Those suffering from the Zika virus may experience fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headache. Usually, these symptoms are mild. They tend to last a few days up to a week. It is rare for patients to be hospitalized or to die as a result of the Zika virus.
How is the Zika Virus transmitted?
The most common way the Zika virus is spread is by mosquito bite. However, it can also be transmitted through sexual activity, blood transfusions and reproductive tissues. The Zika virus can also be transmitted through semen.
How might the Zika Virus affect my fertility treatments?
One of the biggest troubles that comes with the Zika virus is for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. The Zika virus has been associated with babies born with birth defects or poor pregnancy outcomes. In addition to being transmitted via the semen of infected male partners, the Zika virus can also be transmitted through donated reproductive tissues, like egg donation and sperm donation. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued additional Zika screening for egg donors, sperm donors, and gestational carriers (surrogates).
One of the main Zika virus birth defects if Congenital Microcephaly. If your baby is at risk for microcephaly, their head and brain may be small and underdeveloped. Down the line, it can cause the following symptoms:
- Severe disabilities in balance, sitting and walking
- Mental or intellectual disability
- Feeding problems
- Loss of hearing and vision
Zika Virus Prevention
There are several preventive steps you can take to avoid your Zika virus risk. Be cautious when traveling. Avoid the infected nations if you can, or protect yourself from mosquito bites if you must go by using insect repellent and covering your skin. If you are a woman, you should wait at least 8 weeks after exposure (or onset of Zika symptoms) before trying to get pregnant. If you are already pregnant, use a condom to protect yourself if your male partner has traveled to an area with Zika. For men, it is recommended to wait to try and conceive at least 6 months after Zika symptoms start or at least 8 weeks after possible Zika exposure. And of course, talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Contact Us for More Information
To learn more information about the Zika virus and pregnancy, contact one of our offices. You can also visit the Center for Disease Control’s website. Stay safe and stay knowledgeable.