Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
With the Zika virus becoming a daily fixture in current news stories, it’s important for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to have all the facts. Bundoo OB/GYN Dr. Jen Lincoln answers to your top questions about this virus and what it could mean for you and your baby.
Bundoo: How is the Zika virus spread?
Dr. Jen Lincoln: The main way the Zika virus is spread is by getting bitten by an infected mosquito. It can also be passed from a mother to her developing baby in the uterus. Cases of spread via sexual contact have also just made headlines (though we aren’t exactly sure of the mechanism of how the virus is sexually transmitted).
Are there places I shouldn’t travel if I’m pregnant?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel warnings to countries with the highest numbers of Zika cases. This list changes every few days, so you can check here for the most recent recommendations.
Should I really cancel my upcoming trip to Jamaica if I’m trying to conceive?
If you are pregnant, it is best to avoid the countries the CDC has listed. If you are planning on becoming pregnant, you should discuss your travel plans with your doctor. If you choose to go, using certain precautions to avoid mosquito bites is definitely recommended.
I didn’t know about this and just got back from Mexico — what now?
First, take a deep breath and try not to stress. Next, call your doctor or midwife to make them aware of your recent travel. There are guidelines in place to screen women who fall in this category, as well as those who have developed symptoms consistent with Zika virus. Only about 20 percent of people who have the Zika virus will show symptoms, however.
How can my doctor test for the Zika virus?
Your doctor will follow a screening protocol developed by the CDC. If you have a travel history and develop symptoms within a few weeks of your travel, a blood test for Zika virus can be done. An ultrasound of your baby will also be performed, and likely repeated throughout the pregnancy to monitor for signs of microcephaly or other abnormalities. An amniocentesis may also be recommended at some point, depending on your blood test results. If you recently travelled to a concerning area but have no symptoms, your doctor will probably start off with monitoring your baby via ultrasound. Keep in mind these recommendations may change as we learn more about the virus, so checking with your doctor is important.
Can I spread the virus to my baby through my breast milk?
No, there have not been any cases reported showing that the virus can spread this way. Keep breastfeeding!
I just heard there have been cases in the US — how do I avoid exposure?
It is true that more cases are being reported every day in this country, and this is because of people traveling to endemic areas as well as by local mosquito spread. Your best bet is to be smart about bug bite protection: where clothes covering most of your body (and light colored is best), use insect repellant, minimize the amount of standing water around your harm (such as small puddles or bird baths, as this is where mosquitos breed), and stay indoors when mosquitos seem to be the most active. Lastly – and this is a recent recommendation – if your partner has recently travelled to a country where Zika is present, use condoms for the rest of your pregnancy. This is to help protect against the sexual transmission of the virus that we are just learning about.
What bug sprays are safe in pregnancy?
All are, and it is important to use one that is considered most effective by the CDC. You can read about which ingredients offer the best protection here.