We went to two OBGYNs with our questions about the Zika virus in pregnancy, traveling, avoiding the illness and how it can affect your baby. Here's what they said.
It seems like every day there's a new, scary update about the Zika virus. Though relatively mild for most of its victims, Zika has the power to affect pregnant women and their babies in scary ways, which has prompted the CDC to issue warnings about the risks of travelling to infected countries while you're with child.
But there are still many questions left unanswered about the health implications of the virus. With this in mind, we took our reader-submitted questions to two OBGYNs: Nicole Williams, M.D., founder of the Gynecology Institute of Chicago and Jamie Arruda, M.D., gynecologist and advanced pelvic surgeon at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus. Here's everything you need to know about the Zika virus and pregnancy.
Can Zika be transmitted between humans? If so, how?
Dr. Williams: Although there are some reports that Zika has been found in human semen, these claims have yet to be completely substantiated. However, it's always prudent to practice safe sex with any partner you're uncertain of. UPDATE: The first case of sexually transmitted Zika has been confirmed.
If you have a vacation booked near a country in the danger zone, say a Caribbean cruise, should you cancel your trip?
DW: If you are pregnant, consider not leaving the ship for those excursions. And be careful to avoid being bitten at all.
If you live in a state that borders with Mexico or the Caribbean should you take any extra precautions?
DW: Make sure to wear adequate mosquito protection, any EPA-approved one, especially during mosquitos' busiest time, early evening.
What if you're traveling to a country with Zika but want to get pregnant later in the year, when you return home. Should you cancel your trip?
Dr. Arruda: I think it would be OK to travel in this setting if you're not pregnant now. You could potentially get tested to make sure you do not have Zika before getting pregnant, but these tests are not widely available now.
Does Zika become less of a risk the further along you are in your pregnancy, say in your second or third trimester?
DW: Women in ANY trimester should avoid any area where Zika is known to have been found. More research into the specifics of what trimester is most dangerous is currently being done.
Does it continue to have an effect on all pregnancies after initial infection or just the pregnancy at the time of infection?
DW: No, Zika is not known to affect future pregnancies.
Will the Zika virus affect breastfeeding moms who will be in the affected areas?
DW: There have been no reports of Zika being transmitted by breastfeeding.
The symptoms from Zika are reported to be mild in adults, does it affect young children and babies differently?
DW: Of course, babies, young children and older adults may have a more severe reaction because their immune systems are usually weaker, but so far Zika has not been shown to be fatal.
Some maps have shown that Zika could spread to large parts of the United States. Should American women consider putting off getting pregnant?
DW: Until more is known, there is no reason to delay pregnancy at this time. Just make sure to follow normal pregnancy precautions in concert with your own OBGYN.
If you contract the virus, does it automatically mean your child will be born with a birth defect?
DW: Not every woman infected will deliver a baby with the most common abnormality associated with Zika, microcephaly—small head. Unfortunately, since these findings are so new, the data are still very limited.