What You Need to Know about the Zika Virus When You're Trying to Conceive
As new cases of the Zika virus are diagnosed, we’re learning more about how the virus is spread. Initially, it was believed that the virus was only contracted through mosquitoes. This remains the case for the most part, particularly in countries where the virus is widespread. However, we now know that a person can contract Zika through sexual transmission. In cases where the virus was acquired through sexual contact, patients had intercourse with a partner who recently traveled to South American countries where Zika is prevalent.
Why are people worried about the Zika virus?
For the average person, the Zika virus does not typically pose a threat. Most people who contract the virus are able to recover after a few days with rest at home and hydration. However, more about the virus is being discovered each week, so it is important to stay up-to-date with news on the virus as it becomes available.
Largely, the reason why Zika is making headlines across the globe is due to its impact on the fetus during pregnancy. The Zika virus is linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly, which causes poor brain development and a smaller head size. The presence of this birth defect is so substantial that some countries, like El Salvador, have asked women not to try for a pregnancy for the next one to two years.
I live in the U.S. Should I worry about the Zika virus?
Currently, U.S. citizens who are asked to be on alert are those who have either recently traveled to regions affected by the virus or those whose partners have recently done so. So far, the Zika virus has only spread through intercourse with male partners, but this may change as we learn more about how the virus can spread. This is potentially due to the fact that the virus “can remain present in semen longer than in blood.”
If you are currently trying to conceive (TTC), or thinking of TTC, it’s important to be aware of the CDC’s recommended guidelines regarding the Zika virus, particularly its impact on pregnancy. If you are undergoing fertility treatment, family planning will likely only be affected by recent travel to countries where Zika is widespread or if you are using third-party reproduction services like a sperm donor. Should you have any concerns, please feel free to contact your fertility specialist in order to clarify whether your treatment plan is affected.