What You Really Need To Know About Delaying Pregnancy Because of Zika

You're probably hearing mixed advice—here's the truth. 

Zika Mosquito Tacio Philip Sansonovski/Shutterstock

Confused by all the warnings from the World Health Organization about the Zika virus and pregnancy?

Join the club. The guidelines put in place by the WHO may have been meant to help us better navigate this tricky territory, but they actually confused a lot of people—especially after an email sent to media outlets last week was apparently misinterpreted as saying couples in Zika-affected areas should delay pregnancy until further notice. 

So here's what you really need to know:

For starters, if you live in an area where Zika is actively circulating and are considering getting pregnant, you should seek counseling from your country's health services about the risks of pregnancy, what your options are, and what support services are available, according to WHO spokesperson Nyka Alexander.

"Women and their partners should be provided with evidence-based information to enable them to make informed choices about delaying a pregnancy or becoming pregnant," Alexander told CNN, adding that this does not necessarily mean that the WHO is advising couples living in Zika hot zones to delay having children.

"Whether and when to become pregnant should be a personal choice," she explained, "made on the basis of information and access to affordable, quality health services."

And as far as travel goes, according to the WHO, both men and women who visit any country with a current outbreak of Zika should wait a full eight weeks—not four, as previously recommended—after their return to have unprotected sex or attempt to conceive a baby, whether they have active symptoms of the disease or not (since only one out of five people with Zika experience symptoms). And for men and women who do have Zika-like symptoms, the WHO recommends waiting a full six months before attempting to conceive.

We know it's a lot to take in. But again, "It's important to understand that this is not the WHO saying, 'Hey everybody, don't get pregnant," Alexander explained, according to The New York Times. "It's that they should be advised about this, so they themselves can make the final decision."

For answers to more of your Zika questions, check out Parents magazine's interview with Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical adviser to the March of Dimes and an OG/OGYN at Albert Einstein College of Medicine: