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Zika virus — which can be acquired from mosquitoes or from sex with a person (male or female) who has the virus — can be passed from a pregnant women to her fetus and cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other problems such as absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, limb abormalities, and impaired growth.

Zika virus is spreading rapidly, and can be transmitted through mosquito bites, from a pregnant woman to her fetus, sex, and blood transfusions (very likely but not confirmed). Many women and men in the U.S. have been infected when they traveled to or lived in an area that has mosquito-borne transmissionLocal transmission (mosquitoes spreading Zika in the area) is already occurring in some parts of the United States, as well as several US territories and numerous other countries. 

The presence of Zika may influence the plans of all women and men of reproductive age. CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women. However, Zika may also affect the plans of non-pregnant women and men for pregnancy and their use of contraception:

  • Some women and couples seeking pregnancy may change their minds and decide to delay until more is known about Zika.
  • Women who decide they want to prevent pregnancy may use contraception more consistently and correctly, or may choose to use more effective, less user-dependent methods, such as contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices.
  • Women trying to become pregnant, or who are pregnant, may wish to take precautions to reduce the risk of Zika transmission.
  • Women who are unsure about their feelings about pregnancy and childbearing may be more likely to develop a plan that optimizes their health, including use of contraception and/or taking precautions to reduce the risk of Zika transmission.
  • Women and men may be more likely to use condoms consistently and correctly, or abstain from sex, to prevent sexual transmission of Zika.

The information is based on guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  For more information about CDC guidance, see: www.cdc.gov/zika.

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Content created by Office of Population Affairs
Content last reviewed on January 24, 2017