Planning A Pregnancy But Worried About Zika Virus? What You Should Know

Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman's life, both in the planning stages ahead of time and during the pregnancy itself. However, if you are currently trying to get pregnant, you may be concerned about the Zika virus that has made so many news headlines in recent months. Before you begin to panic, get to know more about the Zika virus and pregnancy so that you can weigh all of the risks and determine what the best course of action is for you at the present moment.

Zika Virus History

The Zika virus has been known to scientists and medical researchers for several decades. However, when it was first discovered in humans in 1952, it was found in small clusters first in Africa and then in Asia as well. The recent rapid spread of the virus has brought more concern and mainstream attention. Now, there are infected persons all across the globe, with the vast majority of late being in South America and the Americas in general.

Zika Virus Transmission

Before recently, it was thought that the Zika virus was only transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While this is still regarded as the primary source of infection, Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected man. It may also be transmittable through blood transfusions, but the evidence of this occurring is still being investigated.

Zika Virus Duration

The exact length of time that Zika virus remains in the bloodstream is yet to be determined, especially given that every person's body fights a virus somewhat differently. It has been determined that the virus can live on in a man's sperm long after the virus is no longer in his bloodstream, though.

And recent research on monkeys infected with this virus may also shed some light on the situation. According to this limited research, monkeys who were not pregnant were free of Zika after 10 days. However, those that were pregnant still had the virus in their bloodstream between 30 and 70 days after infection. This is significant in beginning to understand the impacts that the virus can have on human women and their pregnancies/fetuses.

Zika and Pregnancy

The Zika virus is considered to be the most problematic for women who are pregnant because of the way that the virus can affect the fetus. Pregnant women with Zika virus have an increased chance of having a child born with what is known as microcephaly. This is a condition in which the baby's head is abnormally small and they have brain abnormalities as well (partially due to the lack of space in the head for brain matter).

However, it is also important to know that there is much left to learn about Zika virus, including its long-term effects on adults and fetuses that are infected. Recently, research found that there are other neurological effects that Zika virus can have on babies born to infected mothers. These are not always outwardly visible at birth but become noticeable as the child ages. Even if a woman is infected late in her pregnancy, brain damage can occur.

The best way to avoid these issues is to avoid areas known to have Zika-infected mosquitoes, and to make sure that, if you or your partner may have been exposed, you get tested right away. You and your ob/gyn can discuss your risks and set you up to get tested prior to getting pregnant so that you can make sure that you and your future child are as healthy as possible. Contact a center like North Florida Women's Care to learn more.