Mental & physical health

Pregnancy risks

Pregnant women can become infected with Zika virus.

  • The primary way that pregnant women become infected with Zika virus is through the bite of an infected mosquito.
  • Zika virus can be spread through all types of sex (vaginal, anal, and oral).
  • Zika virus can be spread through blood transfusions and possibly via organ transplants.

A pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus. This can happen during pregnancy or at delivery.

To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding.

Microcephaly and other birth outcomes

Zika infection in pregnancy is linked to birth defects including microcephaly (small brain and skull) and death.

In addition to microcephaly, other birth defects have been detected in fetuses and infants who had the Zika virus before birth. These include eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. Researchers are still collecting data to better understand how Zika infection impacts mothers and their children.

For pregnant women

If you’re pregnant, you should protect your baby by:

  • Avoiding travel to a country or region with Zika transmission.
  • Avoiding unprotected sex if your partner (regardless of gender) traveled to a country with Zika. Use condoms or abstain from sex until the baby is born.

It’s not clear when in pregnancy the infection might cause harm to the fetus, so pregnant women should avoid possible exposure to Zika during their entire pregnancy.

For women trying to become pregnant

If you wish to become pregnant and have recently traveled to an area with local Zika virus transmission, you should wait at least eight weeks before trying to become pregnant to be sure you do not infect your fetus.

Men who are exposed to Zika virus can carry the virus in their semen. If your sex partner is male and has traveled to a country with local Zika transmission, you should postpone pregnancy and use condoms for two months after returning. This will help prevent your fetus from developing birth defects from Zika infection.

Speak with your doctor or healthcare provider about your risk level. They will also be able to help you identify the options for birth control (in addition to condoms) that will work best for you and your partner.