The Progressive Nurse

Progressive, adj: making progress toward better conditions

Category: Maternal Child Health

Zika Virus and Pregnancy


The fast-moving Zika virus epidemic has crossed from Latin America into Texas, prompting the CDC to develop interim guidelines and recommendations for health care providers in the United States caring for pregnant women during this outbreak. Health care professionals should:

  • Educate all pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission about the risks of infection
  • Ask about recent travel
  • Provide screening, testing, and management of pregnant travelers returning from areas with ongoing virus transmission

The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne infection that produces mild symptoms in adults, but has a devastating effect on the unborn child. Pregnant women exposed to this virus have a higher risk of miscarriage and babies born with microcephaly (small head). In Brazil, cases of microcephaly, in which the brain does not develop fully before birth, increased from an average 150 per year to almost 4000 cases in 2015. Finally, a link between Zika and microcephaly was established when Zika was found in the amniotic fluid of two women and in the brain and heart of an affected infant (Kelly, 2016). This public health issue has led Brazilian health authorities and other high risk countries, to advise women to delay conception to reduce the risk of bearing children with devastating birth defects.

The full spectrum of outcomes that may be associated with Zika virus infections during pregnancy is unknown at this time and requires further investigation. Prevention is the key. Advice for travelers is to Prevent and Present: Prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, and if you develop symptoms don’t ignore them, present yourself immediately for medical care (Shah, 2016).


CDC guidelines and recommendations for pregnant women:

Signs and symptoms of Zika virus:

Updates on areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission:

Medscape Medical News:

Perinatal Care Fact Sheet – Women’s Health Organization

To advance the care of American women, the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) was established in 1991 to provide leadership to coordinate the improvement of health in women and girls through policy, education and model programs. Perinatal care is a focus of OWH and the Prenatal Care Fact Sheet is a small example of evidenced based health information provided by OWHs website

It is known that women who receive prenatal care have better birth outcomes, such as babies born after 37 weeks and of normal birth weight.  A strong correlation exists between the lack of prenatal care and poor birth outcomes related to preterm labor (babies born before 37 weeks) and low birth weight (babies born under 5 pounds 8 ounces).  Babies born to mothers who do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight and are five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do receive prenatal care.

The evidence based information provided by OWH does not replace the professional advice of your care provider.  It is intended to improve your knowledge and serve as a discussion tool to individualize care.

Click here to read the Prenatal Care Fact Sheet