Advice for pregnant women about the Zika virus

Advice for pregnant women about the Zika virus


May 24, 2016

Expert addresses Zika virus-related concerns for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.


In summer, when mosquitos and people are at their most active, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist Sarah Osmundson, M.D., has a few recommendations for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

The first: stay calm.

“One of the most important things we want to communicate to patients is there have been no cases of Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States,” said Osmundson, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Vanderbilt Women’s Health. “All people within the U.S. who have been infected with Zika virus were infected during travel to affected countries. This could change, but right now, our main caution is against travel to countries with active Zika virus.

“We are fielding a fair number of questions about Zika. Most of the questions are from pregnant patients or from women who want to get pregnant. The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has specific guidelines regarding who gets tested for Zika. All pregnant women who have traveled to an affected area are included.”

Because there have been cases of sexual transmission of Zika, pregnant women whose partners have traveled to affected countries should also get tested and they should use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy, Osmundson said.

Partners who have traveled to affected countries should talk with their physicians about testing options and concerns.

“We have had no positive cases of Zika virus in pregnant women at Vanderbilt,” she said.

Avoiding travel to countries with active Zika virus is also recommended for couples who want to get pregnant, said Osmundson.

“If a woman has traveled to an affected area we suggest she wait eight weeks from the time of travel to attempt pregnancy. For men, this waiting period is also eight weeks unless he had symptoms of Zika infection. Also, because Zika virus may concentrate in semen, men who had symptoms of Zika infection should wait six months before trying to conceive with their partner.”

Osmundson said that during the summer months use the following common sense tips for avoiding mosquito bites:

• Wear a DEET-based mosquito repellant.

• Avoid areas with a high mosquito population.

• Wear long, loose-fitting clothing.

• Eliminate standing water around your home.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers more information about Zika. 

pregnancy jitters

Expecting or considering having a baby? Know all your pregnancy care options available through Vanderbilt Women’s Health.

Sarah Osmundson, M.D., is assistant professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In addition to opioid use after C-section, her research interests include screening and treatment of women with prediabetes in pregnancy, advanced maternal age and obesity in pregnancy.