Zika and Pregnancy
Risks to Infected Unborn Babies
- Zika infection of unborn babies (called congenital infection) can lead to severe brain defects, including microcephaly (abnormally small head and brain) and other serious nervous system defects, such as problems with vision or hearing. Zika virus infection of unborn babies has also been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth. Many babies born to women infected with Zika virus during pregnancy do not have microcephaly.
- It is unknown if perinatal infections (when a woman is infected within two weeks of delivering her baby and the virus passes to the infant at time of delivery) can lead to developmental problems.
- There is no evidence that past Zika infection poses an increased risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.
Prevention During Pregnancy
- Until we know more, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women. Pregnant women are advised not travel to areas with Zika. See the CDC’s Areas with Risk of Zika page for up-to-date recommendations.
- If you must travel, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider first and take steps to plan for travel.
- If a pregnant woman or her partner travel to an area with risk of Zika, the couple should use condoms from start to finish every time they have sex or not have sex for the entire pregnancy, even if the traveler does not have symptoms of Zika or feel sick.
- Pregnant women who have traveled to areas with Zika should talk to their doctors about whether they should be tested for Zika infection. Complete the Zika Virus Exposure Patient Self-Assessment Form from the California Department of Public Health: English | Spanish
How Zika Passes from Mother to Baby
- There are two different ways a pregnant woman can pass Zika to her baby:
- Congenital transmission of Zika virus occurs when a woman is infected during her pregnancy, but before delivery. The virus is passed from the woman to her unborn baby.
- Perinatal transmission of Zika virus occurs when a woman is infected within two weeks of delivering her baby and the virus passes to the infant at time of delivery. Infants infected perinatally may develop symptoms like joint pain, eye redness, fever, or rash. We do not know if a newborn who becomes infected with Zika at birth will develop microcephaly after birth (acquired microcephaly).
- Zika virus has been detected in breast milk but there have been no reports of transmission through breastmilk. For this reason, CDC encourages mothers infected with Zika to continue breastfeeding because the benefits outweigh the risks.