On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern after the rapid increase of microencephaly cases in newborn babies, which is strongly believed to be linked to women with an infectious history of the Zika virus (ZIKV) during pregnancy. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html
ZIKV recently emerged as an epidemic in Latin America, particularly in Brazil and the Caribbean.
Many Latin American countries are recommending that women avoid pregnancy until ZIKV is contained.
It is primarily transmitted by the same mosquitoes as Dengue and Chikungunya (CHIK) viruses, Aedes species (A. aegypti and A. albopictus).
Recently, it was found to be transmitted sexually by men, and by blood transfusion.
Zika fever shares many similar clinical symptoms with Dengue and CHIK fever.
Transmission of Zika virus from pregnant women to their fetuses has been documented.
Zika virus infection close to term could potentially be transmitted during both pregnancy and at childbirth, although this has not been scientifically proven to date.
Pregnant women in general, including those who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection, should see their health-care provider for close monitoring of their pregnancy.
Can mothers with Zika infection breastfeed their baby?
Zika virus has been detected in breast milk but there is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted to babies through breastfeeding.
WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.
What should women do if they wish to postpone pregnancy because they are worried about microcephaly?
Whether and when to become pregnant should be a personal decision, on the basis of full information and access to affordable, quality health services.
Women wanting to postpone pregnancy should have access to a comprehensive range of reversible, long- or short-acting contraceptive options. They should also be counselled on the dual protection against sexually transmitted infections provided by condoms.
There are no known safety concerns regarding the use of any hormonal or barrier contraceptive methods for women or adolescent girls at risk of Zika virus, women diagnosed with Zika virus infection, or women and adolescents being treated for Zika virus infection.
What should pregnant women do if they wish to discontinue their pregnancy due to a fear of microcephaly?
Most women in Zika-affected areas will give birth to normal infants.
Early ultrasound does not reliably predict microcephaly. WHO recommends a repeat ultrasound of the fetus in the late second or early third trimester (preferably between 28 and 30 weeks) to identify fetal microcephaly and/or other brain abnormalities when they are easier to detect.
Where feasible, screening of amniotic fluid (a pregnant woman's waters) for abnormalities and congenital infections, including Zika virus, is recommended, especially in cases where women tested negative for Zika but their ultrasounds indicate fetal brain abnormalities.
Based on the prognosis of associated fetal brain abnormalities, the woman—and her partner if she wishes—should be offered non-directive counselling so that she, in consultation with her health-care provider, can make a fully informed choice about the next steps in the management of her pregnancy.
Women who wish to discontinue the pregnancy should receive accurate information about their options to the full extent of the law, including harm reduction where the care desired is not readily available.