Recent data studying the outcomes of pregnancies with Zika infection suggests that, in the United States, 1 in 10 pregnant women infected with the Zika virus had a baby with a serious birth defect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these birth defects included microcephaly as well as brain damage. Additionally, babies of Zika-infected women may exhibit seizures, developmental delays, as well as problems with vision, hearing, and movement. Women and their unborn children appear to be most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy. Infections that occurred during the first trimester were associated with a 15% risk of serious birth defects. Experts suspect that the impact of Zika-related brain abnormalities is probably underestimated as the majority of Zika-infected babies are still not undergoing brain imaging after birth.
Given the severe potential implications of Zika infection, the CDC currently recommends that women wait 8 weeks to conceive after travel to a Zika-affected area and men wait 6 months to conceive. The lengthy waiting period for men is necessary because Zika can survive in semen longer than in other bodily fluids. During this waiting period, couples should abstain or use condoms. If possible, we recommend that individuals trying to conceive simply avoid travel to Zika-affected areas.
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