Zika Update: CDC Says Delay Pregnancy After Exposure

The CDC has released some very specific advice about how women who are trying to conceive should proceed if they've have symptoms of the Zika virus.

Zika Update: CDC Says Delay Pregnancy After Exposure Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock

The CDC has issued new guidelines for women who wish to become pregnant after being exposed to the Zika virus.

As we've previously reported, the CDC has given a firm warning advising pregnant women against traveling to an ever-expanding list of areas that have been touched by the virus. It's common knowledge that Zika is especially dangerous if it affects pregnant women—the virus has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads—but how does Zika affect women who are trying to conceive?

New guidelines indicate that any woman who has experienced any of the symptoms associated with the Zika virus—which include fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes—should wait at least eight weeks from the onset of symptoms before conceiving. Canadian officials warned women to delay pregnancy as well, and it appears US health experts are following suit.

But that's not where the CDC's new batch of recommendations end. We've know that Zika can be transmitted sexually; in light of this, the CDC also recommends that men who have been affected by the virus avoid unprotected sex for six months after they begin experiencing Zika symptoms. Men who have traveled to an area where Zika is present should avoid unprotected sex for eight weeks even if they don't experience any symptoms.

The CDC also made it clear that healthcare professionals should guide patients who have been exposed to Zika in making smart choices, especially where sexual activity and reproduction are concerned. They've also mentioned the importance of providing access to contraception in certain areas—for example, approximately two-thirds of pregnancies in Puerto Rico are unplanned and access to birth control could help reduce rates of Zika-associated microcephaly.