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Reproductive Age Women in Areas with Active Zika Virus Transmission

How should couples who reside in areas with active Zika virus transmission be counseled?

Because Zika virus infection is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, it is very important that women and their partners residing in areas of active Zika virus transmission consider if now is the right time to become pregnant. Healthcare providers should discuss reproductive life plans, including pregnancy intentions and timing with women of reproductive age. Decisions about pregnancy planning are personal. Decisions about attempting conception should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. If a decision is made that now is the right time to attempt conception, healthcare providers should emphasize the importance of protection against Zika virus infection during pregnancy for both the woman and her partner. As part of the planning process, women and their partners should discuss the risks of local Zika virus transmission with their healthcare providers. This discussion should include:

  • An assessment of the risk of Zika exposure, including the presence of mosquitoes in and around the home, protective measures practiced, and levels of local transmission of Zika.
  • Signs and symptoms of Zika.
  • Possible adverse outcomes of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, including birth defects.
  • Factors that might influence timing of pregnancy: fertility, age, reproductive history, medical history, and personal values and preferences.

Taking protective measures has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of vector-borne diseases; however, it might be impossible to eliminate the risk of Zika virus exposure during conception or pregnancy. The decision about timing of pregnancy is a personal decision and should be made by the person or couple in consultation with a healthcare provider.

If patients want to delay or avoid pregnancy at this time, what methods can be used to prevent pregnancy?

For women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy, healthcare providers should ensure access to safe and effective contraceptive methods that best meet their needs. Women and their partners who do not want to attempt conception now should use the most effective birth control method correctly and consistently. Using condoms the right way, every time can also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including Zika.

Patients should be counseled about contraceptive methods, including the availability and effectiveness of different contraceptive methods and how to use these methods. The decision about what type of contraceptive method to use is a personal decision and should be made by the person or couple in consultation with their healthcare provider.

Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, specifically intrauterine devices and implants, are the most effective reversible methods for preventing pregnancy. These methods are just as effective at preventing pregnancy as permanent methods, including tubal sterilization and vasectomy. Further information is available at CDC’s Contraception and CDC’s Contraceptive Guidance for Healthcare Providers webpages.

Condoms should be used to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, if the partner has had possible Zika virus exposure or Zika virus disease.

What is a reproductive life plan?

A reproductive life plan helps a woman think about her goals for having or not having children and how to achieve these goals. A woman’s plan depends on her personal goals. Reproductive life plan worksheets are available here.

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