We all know life doesn’t slow down when you are pregnant. Weddings, funerals, and family reunions are all things many women and their partners don’t want to miss while pregnant or trying to become pregnant. One of the most frequent questions an OBGYN is asked both before and during pregnancy is “Can I travel?” Be sure to talk to your provider if you are traveling internationally during your pregnancy.
If you are currently pregnant or attempting pregnancy, there are some advisories in place for international travel. One of the biggest concerns for patients who are pregnant or attempting pregnancy is avoiding the Zika virus. Zika was recently identified in Central, North, and South America, but there are now cases of Zika virus infection throughout the world. Luckily, cases are declining. Zika is spread through mosquito bites, sexual intercourse, or from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Zika virus infection generally causes no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms. This includes headaches, fevers, rash, joint pain, muscle pain and red eyes. However, babies born to women infected with Zika virus are at risk of serious birth defects, including brain abnormalities, microcephaly, and pregnancy loss. Microcephaly can lead to lifelong problems, such as seizures, feeding problems, hearing loss, vision problems, and learning difficulties. Currently, there is no treatment or vaccines for Zika virus, but there are ways to protect yourself.
If you are planning a pregnancy, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends avoiding travel to areas with Zika. A list of areas with Zika exposure can be found on the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/zika/. The recommended waiting time to attempt pregnancy differs depending on which partner travels to areas of exposure. If the male partner is the one who travels to endemic areas, it is recommended that condoms or abstinence are used for at least 6 months following travel- even if he shows no signs or symptoms of the disease. If the female partner is the one who travels, that recommended wait time is less- only 2 months of condom use or abstinence is recommended.
If travel to an endemic area is necessary, there are additional ways to protect yourself. Wear long sleeves to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Use a repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Consider spraying clothes with Permethrin, but do not apply permethrin to your skin, it is meant for clothing only. You may also consider using mosquito nets in windows and around bedding to further protect yourself.
If you think you have been exposed to Zika or have symptoms, please notify your doctor. There is testing available to determine if you have a current or previous infection with Zika virus. Positive results during pregnancy often mean referral to a high-risk obstetrician called a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist who cares for you in conjunction with your OBGYN. Additional ultrasounds and testing are performed during the remainder of the pregnancy. Even with positive results, there are still many things not known about pregnancy and Zika. Some of the issues researchers are still trying to determine are how likely it is that exposure to the virus will affect a patient or her pregnancy; how likely it is that the virus will be passed to the fetus; how likely it is that the fetus, if infected, will have birth defects; and when in pregnancy the infection might harm the fetus. While there are still many unknowns, talk to your physician if you have concerns regarding Zika virus and pregnancy. We are here to help you and your growing family!
Gwinnett Gynecology and Maternity
1800 Tree Ln Ste 300
Snellville, GA 30078
Sources:1. ACOG “Practice Advisory Interim Guidance for Care of Obstetric Patients During a Zika Virus Outbreak ” October 2017. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Practice-Advisories/Practice-Advisory-Interim-Guidance-for-Care-of-Obstetric-Pa-tients-During-a-Zika-Virus-Outbreak 2. CDC “Zika and Pregnancy” January 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/zika/preg-nancy/index.html