You’ve probably seen the frightening news reports of hundreds of Brazilian babies with microcephaly, a serious birth defect characterized by abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development.
Infectious disease experts have attributed their condition to the Zika virus, carried by two species of mosquitoes as well as through sexual intercourse with an infected person. The Zika virus can affect pregnant women and their babies at any point in the pregnancy, and currently testing for Zika is complicated and not readily available. Still, the risk of catching Zika, particularly in the U.S. and southern California, is very low and research is rapidly ongoing—especially for a vaccine.
In April, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a document developed from CDC and FDA reports to help infertility physicians counsel patients about Zika’s impact on reproduction. Key takeaways include:
- If you are planning to conceive, neither you or your partner should travel to Zika-affected regions.
- If you or your partner has traveled to countries with active transmission, you should abstain from trying to conceive for at least eight weeks and use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy, even if you are infertile.
- To date, all Zika virus cases in the U.S. are related to those who have traveled to affected countries or to their sexual partners.
- If you are using donor sperm, make sure it comes from a sperm bank that follows FDA regulations for a six-month quarantine for infectious diseases. Many egg donor and surrogacy agencies are asking their candidates to follow the same guidelines as couples that are trying to conceive.
- Try to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes by using appropriate insect repellant such a EPA-registered repellants, staying away from mosquito-prone areas and wearing protective clothing.
At HRC, we are confident about your ability to conceive safely and successfully through infertility treatments, and subsequently to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. We urge all patients to learn what they can about Zika and the extremely small risk to infertility patients in the U.S., as well as to take a few simple precautions.
Author: Jane Frederick