What Pregnant Women Need to Know about the Zika Virus

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The number of locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus has increased at an alarming rate and that number might still be climbing. MH finds out about the virus and what it means for pregnant women.

Since we found out about the first locally transmitted case of the Zika virus here in Singapore over the weekend, the number has increased to 82. The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Clinical Advisory Group has issued guideline advising all pregnant women in Singapore to get tested for the virus if they are exhibiting symptoms. Motherhood speaks to Dr Chua Yang, obstetrician and gynaecologist from A Clinic for Women to find out what you need to know about the virus.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?
The symptoms include fever, rash, aches and pains, conjunctivitis or the red eye. Pregnant women with symptoms suggestive of the infections are advised to test for Zika. Testing can be done by blood or urine tests depending on the duration of symptoms and at the moment, only some labs provide this testing and is therefore quite expensive.

Did You Know?
MOH has announced that pregnant women with symptoms of the Zika virus or those who have partners with the virus are entitled to free testing at public healthcare institutions.

How does Zika affect pregnant women?
Infection during pregnancy has been linked to microcephaly and other severe brain defects. Other problems like eye and hearing deficits as well as an otherwise rare condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

If a couple has or has gotten the Zika virus and they would like to get pregnant, when would be a good time to try for a baby?
For women who are exposed to Zika, they are recommended to wait at least two months after exposure or after symptoms appear. Men who are exposed are recommended to wait six months. If the father is exposed, the pregnant woman should prevent contracting it through sexual activity.

Can women transmit the virus to their baby during childbirth?
Yes, Zika can be transmitted from mother to baby during the pregnancy or at the delivery. There has not been any report of transmission through breastfeeding, though.

How do you protect yourself against the Zika virus?
Prevention is the best way forward. Apart from looking after the home environment to avoid growing mozzies, staying indoors and avoiding "jungly" places may be the way to go. Sleeves and pants may prevent bites. It is also important to find a good repellent.

Thanks for sharing!