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Zika: Family Planning and Your Winter Vacation

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is based on the research of one local mom with the goal of staying informed on a serious topic. As always, if you have questions about topics related to medicine, we encourage you to engage with your health care provider.

Public Service Announcement from one mom to another:

If you, or your spouse is traveling to any of the Zika infected areas (think the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Florida, and a slew of other places that are awesome to visit when the weather turns frigid), know that it takes at least six months for Zika to not be present in sperm. SIX MONTHS. It is recommended to wait eight weeks if you are female. 

Now, what does this mean? It means that if you are planning on becoming pregnant, and your husband is traveling either solo or with you, you have to wait six months to be safe, regardless of mosquito bites. This is because the symptoms of Zika may not manifest, so the affected person may not even realize that he or she has it. This also means that even if you aren’t planning on becoming pregnant, you should use condoms so that your husband cannot transmit the virus to you. 

Now, if you read that and think, ok, well I’ll just get tested for Zika, there are two problems with that. One, they are only testing women who are already pregnant and men who show symptoms of the infection. Two, the Zika test isn’t very accurate. Oftentimes there are false negatives. And there are also false positives. Not very helpful.

Now, what’s the big dilemma with Zika? Pregnant mothers who contract Zika, at pretty much any stage of the pregnancy, risk their children suffering from microcephaly which is a condition that affects babies’ brains. The scary thing is, the baby may be born meeting all criteria for “normal” in terms of head size, but may develop microcephaly later. Absolutely terrifying. 

Furthermore, there are other medical issues caused by Zika. Children face symptoms similar to cerebral palsy and include epileptic seizures, muscle and joint problems, and difficulties swallowing food. Doctors predict there will be more developmental issues for these children in the future as well, since Zika is a relatively new epidemic and it hasn’t been studied in detail. 

Obviously this is not a substitute for medical advice. Consult your medical professional for information based on your situation. Just note that I spoke with various doctors (pediatric and OBGYN) so that I could have a better understanding of Zika, and they all agreed: wait six months! 

Also, you can text (855) 255-5605 for more specific information on travel destinations. This service is provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Their website is https://www.cdc.gov

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