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5 Things to Know About Zika and Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Zika is a virus that a person can catch through the bite of an infected mosquito. Outbreaks of the virus have happened throughout the world, particularly in tropical areas where certain types of mosquitoes live. 

Women who are pregnant — or who are considering becoming pregnant — may be worried about the Zika virus. The virus causes a serious birth defect called microcephaly, which is when a baby has a small head and brain. Zika also has been linked to other serious problems in babies, such as eye problems, hearing loss, and seizures. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

Many people who get infected with Zika do not get sick at all and do not even know that they are infected. Those who do get sick usually get mildly ill with symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The virus can be passed from mothers to babies during pregnancy.

Here are 5 things to know about Zika and pregnancy:

1. Pregnant women (and women trying to get pregnant) should not travel to areas that are currently affected by Zika outbreaks. The CDC monitors countries where people have the virus.

2. If you travel to countries where the Zika virus is most active, consider postponing becoming pregnant. Because the virus can spread through sex, men should use condoms.

If you are already pregnant, use condoms during sex throughout the pregnancy or do not have sex during the pregnancy. This also applies to couples where only the male partner has lived in or traveled to an area with Zika virus, even if the woman has not.

Even couples who are not pregnant or not trying to get pregnant should use condoms during sex for at least 3 months after one the partners has traveled to a Zika-infested area. This will help reduce spread of the virus.

3. Try to avoid mosquito bites if you live in or travel to countries where the Zika virus is most active. To avoid getting bitten:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in homes that have air conditioning or window screens.
  • Wear mosquito repellent that is safe for pregnant women. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information on repellents.
  • Dump standing water (such as in children's swimming pools and rainwater in flower pots and old tires), which attracts mosquitoes.

4. If you are pregnant and have traveled to areas where Zika is active, get a Zika test if:

  • You have symptoms of Zika.
  • An ultrasound shows any problems related to Zika.
  • Your male partner has lived in or traveled to those areas.

If you live in or frequently travel to areas where Zika is active, get a Zika test:

  • anytime you have symptoms
  • at your first prenatal care visit, and at two more times at regular prenatal care visits

5. Talk with your doctor. Planning to have a baby is personal and your circumstances are unique. Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about Zika and pregnancy. Health experts are studying the impact of Zika on mothers and their babies. As more information is known, guidelines could change. Check the CDC's website for the most current updates.

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2022