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Zika virus and pregnancy

If you are pregnant, the Zika virus may cause serious birth defects. There is no medication to treat Zika so it is important to take precautions if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Read about the Zika virus symptoms.

Zika virus is an infection spread by mosquitoes in certain countries. It can also be passed from person to person during unprotected sex. If you are pregnant, the Zika virus may cause serious birth defects.

There is no vaccine or medication to treat Zika virus so it is important to take special precautions if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

Zika virus can damage a baby's developing brain. Occasionally, Zika virus infection can cause a serious birth defect known as microcephaly. This means that a baby has an abnormally small head.

Microcephaly can cause developmental delays, feeding difficulties and convulsions. It can sometimes be detected before birth using an ultrasound scan.

Travelling to an affected area

If you are pregnant or if you are planning to conceive, you should avoid travelling to countries where there is a risk of Zika virus.

If your travel is essential, talk to your GP or visit a travel health clinic before travelling.

Symptoms

Zika virus may have no symptoms in the majority of cases. Symptoms include:

  • mild fever
  • aches and pains
  • headaches
  • itchy rash
  • conjunctivitis (red and sore eyes)

Treatment

There is no treatment for Zika virus, even for pregnant women. The treatment is to rest and to drink plenty of fluids, and to relieve pain, fever and other symptoms.

Pregnant women who have returned from an affected area

If you have returned from an affected area speak to your GP or midwife even if you have not been ill. Your GP or midwife will discuss the risks with you and may refer you for an ultrasound scan.

If you develop symptoms of Zika virus within 10 days of returning from an affected area, speak to your GP. If you have been infected with Zika virus you will develop symptoms in 3 to 12 days. You may need a blood test and you may receive extra monitoring during your pregnancy.

If your partner is pregnant use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.

Women returning from affected areas and trying to get pregnant

If you have travelled to an area with Zika virus without your partner, you should wait 8 weeks after returning before trying to get pregnant. If you were ill with Zika virus, wait for 8 weeks after your symptoms end before trying to get pregnant.

If your partner is male, and you are hoping to conceive a baby with him it is important to be aware that Zika virus can be present in semen for up to 6 months. If you travelled with your male partner, wait for 6 months after you both arrive home before trying to get pregnant. If your male partner was ill with Zika virus, wait for 6 months after he recovers before trying to get pregnant.

Men returning from affected countries

If your partner is pregnant use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.

Even if you were not ill with Zika, you should use condoms for 6 months after your return.

More information on the Zika virus and pregnancy can be found on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre's website.

Page last reviewed: 15/03/2018
Next review due: 15/03/2021