Zika virus in Pregnant women
Though Zika virus doesn't cause symptoms in major cases, it could cause a condition called microcephaly in newborn children when the mother is infected with the virus. Microcephaly causes abnormally small head sizes in these children, and stunts development of the brain.
According to a report released by Brazilian Health Authorities on January 27, 2016, as many as 4,180 cases of microcephaly has been reported in Brazil since October 2015.
It is thought that within the female body the Zika virus can travel across the placenta and affect the health of an unborn baby.
Main Article: Microcephaly
It is believed that Zika virus in pregnant women could cause a condition called microcephaly in newborn children. On February 1, 2016 WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said on Monday it was "strongly suspected but not yet scientifically proven" that Zika causes microcephaly.
There is no treatment for microcephaly. Although some children have normal intelligence and development, their heads remain small. At least 38 Brazilian babies have died of microcephaly.
Pregnant woman who've travelled to Zika virus affected countries
If you've experienced symptoms:
- You should consult a doctor if you have suffered Zika virus symptoms during the travel or within two weeks after you return.
- The doctor will decide whether to submit your blood sample for a Zika virus test.
- The test reports will take two weeks as there are only few specialized labs in the US which can test the presence of Zika virus in blood
If you've experienced no symptoms:
- Tell your OB/GYN about the details of your trip
- Schedule an ultrasound as soon as possible to detect any brain or skull abnormalities that could reveal microcephaly
- Schedule ultrasounds for the future to see the monitor the development of your fetus
- If your doctor finds evidence of microcephaly, consider getting an amniocentesis to test for the presence of Zika in the baby. This test could be performed only after 15 weeks of pregnancy and comes with a risk of miscarriage.
Abortion is illegal in few countries and is a hot topic of discussion in several countries. In some cases, pregnant women who are infected with Zika virus and whose foetuses have been infected with the virus are considering abortion. However, the government of few countries where abortion is illegal and where the outbreak of Zika virus is present are not willing to give any exceptions. Abortion is banned or highly restricted in many countries affected by the Zika crisis.
Even the Catholic Church at the Vatican City has said that abortions should not be permitted to pregnant women whose foetuses have the risk of Microcephaly. The church said that abortion is an illegitimate response to the Zika virus crisis. The opposition of the church's response was delivered to the UN by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN.
Even the Catholic church in Brazil strongly opposed a move to permit abortions for pregnant women exposed to the Zika virus.