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Zika virus can impact family planning

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Zika is becoming a family matter. The Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, but it can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Sexual transmission of the virus has implications for couples who are pregnant or who are planning pregnancy.

Researchers have not yet established what the risk is of getting the infection through sexual contact with an infected person, but Zika infection in pregnancy is a concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mounting evidence supports a link between viral infection in pregnant women and poor outcomes in their babies, such as microcephaly, a birth defect that is a sign that the baby’s brain is incompletely developed. Unfortunately, a vaccine is not available at this time but people can take steps to prevent contracting the virus.

Of those infected, one in five people will develop symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis.

Here’s what the CDC recommends to prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus: Couples with men who have confirmed Zika or symptoms of Zika should use condoms or not have sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin.  Couples with men who traveled to an area with Zika but did not develop symptoms should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks after their return. Symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes.

Women planning pregnancy or who are pregnant should take added protection against Zika infection. Women with the Zika virus are recommended to wait at least 8 weeks after their symptoms first appeared before trying to get pregnant. Men should wait at least 6 months after their symptoms first appeared to have unprotected sex.  It is very important to discuss pregnancy planning with your physician.

Women who are pregnant and at risk for Zika infection should also consult with their health care providers. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. If travel is necessary or women live in an area with Zika, they should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission of the virus, according to the CDC. Additional prevention recommendations and other important information can be found here.