Pregnancy and the Zika Virus

Woman talking to her doctor
Photo © Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Zika virus is in the news right now. This virus is spread through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. Currently there are outbreaks of the Zika virus in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. Puerto Rico had its first confirmed case in December of 2015. It has also been found in returning travelers from infected areas.

Due to complications found in mothers in Brazil, where there is an active Zika virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 2 travel warning to pregnant woman to the following countries: CDC Travel List.

 A level 2 warning means that you should practice enhanced precautions when traveling to infected areas. This warning is for women in all trimesters of pregnancy.

Currently there aren't any ways to treat or prevent contracting the Zika virus, like a vaccine. It is recommended that you protect yourself when traveling to countries where the Zika virus is found. You can do that in a number of ways including:

  • wear insect repellent
  • be sure that there are screens on windows and doors
  • stay where it is air conditioned
  • wear long pants and long sleeves when out
  • consider mosquito netting

The level 2 warning comes after epidemiological data showing a dramatic rise in the incidence of microcephaly in Brazil. This is where the baby's head is smaller than expected which may indicate brain growth restriction. This can also mean that the baby will suffer from seizures and developmental delays. There are also several other reports of a vague nature that the CDC does not expound upon saying, "This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

However, additional studies are needed to further characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy."

Symptoms of the Zika Virus

The Zika virus has many symptoms. These include:

  • fever
  • rash
  • joint pain
  • red eyes (conjunctivitis)

For most people, the illness is not very debilitating.

The symptoms last a few days up to a week. Though there have been people who have had symptoms debilitating enough to require that they go to the hospital. This is fairly uncommon in the general population.

While we are not yet certain the effects that the Zika virus will have during your current pregnancy, we do know that the Zika virus only stays in your blood for up to a week, making it safe for you to have future pregnancies. The Zika virus will not affect any pregnancy in the future. 

If You Contract the Zika Virus

The only thing that you can do if you contract the Zika virus is to treat the symptoms. You will want to ensure that you rest and get plenty of water. You can take medications containing acetaminophen to help reduce the symptoms, but you should avoid other medications like those containing aspirin. Remember, as a virus, Zika will not be treated with antibiotics.

If you think you have contracted the Zika virus, talk to your midwife or doctor. Be sure let them know that you have traveled to an area where the Zika virus was found.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus. 9 March 2016. Last Accessed 11 March 2016.

National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)  Last Accessed 11 March 2016.

Continue Reading