Many women who are currently pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant may be frightened by the threat of the Zika virus. The virus is spread through mosquito bites and can cause severe birth defects like microcephaly to babies who are born to mothers infected with Zika. The condition microcephaly leads to a smaller size head and brain damage in the infant.
Brazil is one of the most widely affected countries with over 4,000 cases of the Zika virus being diagnosed since May 2015. The World Health Organization has issued a warning the the virus may spread throughout the Western Hemisphere in 2016. In January there was a travel alert that warned women to avoid visiting Puerto Rico and 13 other countries in Central and South America. While the risk of contracting the Zika virus is low for most women, there are some other reasons to try and avoid mosquito bites since they can lead to West Nile Virus, other viruses and are just generally uncomfortable.
Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites When Pregnant or Breastfeeding
Always cover your skin as much as comfortably possible. Wear light colored clothing so you can see any insects on you and wear thick clothing when possible. A clothing safe insect repellent can add an extra layer of protection and keep mosquitoes away. Also spray insect repellent on yourself but be sure to read all ingredients lists and find one that is safe for use in pregnant women. The Environmental Working Group recommends a repellent with anywhere from 7% to 30% DEET concentration. Picaridin may used in those who have sensitive skin or certain allergies. Avoid sunscreen and insect repellent combinations, instead apply sunscreen first, then repellent.
If possible install screens to keep mosquitoes from coming inside and seek places that have similar protection when you’re out and about. Also avoid places with standing water as this is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you can, avoid being outside during dawn and dusk as this is the time many mosquitoes prefer to bite. When spending time outside, you can consider burning an insect repelling candle that contains chemicals that are safe for use by pregnant women.
When returning indoors, always discard and wash clothing that has been sprayed with repellent and wash it off the skin to limit unnecessary exposure. Don’t over use the spray and don’t combine different types of repellents as they may interact with one another negatively.
The Zika virus is a serious concern and shouldn’t be taken lightly by women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, but it doesn’t require a great lifestyle change. Basic precautions should help most women avoid contact with mosquitoes that may carry the virus. Those who live in a low risk area should just be sure to wear protective clothing, especially when outside during peak biting hours, and apply a preventative insect repellent. Those who live in, or are visiting, areas that have already had cases of the virus should take extra precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their unborn children.