Zika and pregnancy: What you should know

February 16, 2017

For women who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, there may be no such thing as a simple mosquito bite anymore. At least, not since the Zika outbreak began.iStock-525033368.jpg

Zika is a virus that is spread to people mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito. An infected person also can pass the virus to someone during sex. But the most alarming aspect of Zika is that an infected pregnant woman can pass the virus to her unborn child—with potentially tragic results.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. These include a brain deformity called microcephaly, vision and hearing problems, and stunted growth.

How to protect yourself

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. However, there are steps women—particularly those who might get pregnant—can take to protect themselves from infection:

  • Don't travel to areas with Zika. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at cdc.gov for the latest information.
  • If you must travel, talk to your doctor first.
  • If your sex partner travels to an area with Zika, use a condom during sex.
  • If you live in or visit an area with Zika, protect yourself against mosquito bites. Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellents, such as DEET, on your skin. Wear long sleeves and pants. Spray your clothes—not your skin--with permethrin, a bug repellent. Use mosquito netting and bed nets.
  • CDC suggests waiting at least eight weeks after exposure to the Zika virus before trying to get pregnant.
  • If you think you've been exposed, talk to your doctor. If you're pregnant, your doctor might suggest urine or blood tests to check for the virus.

Additional source: March of Dimes

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