Whether you’re looking to become a surrogate or you’re looking to expand your family using a surrogate, the Zika virus is a growing concern because it can have a tragic impact on a pregnancy.  Unfortunately, this particular virus is scary for surrogates and intended parents, but this post isn’t intended to scare you.  Instead, our goal is to arm you with basic information and practical Zika virus precautions – so you know how to protect yourself and your pregnancy.

Zika Virus 101: Just the Basics

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne viral infection that can cause severe birth defects if a pregnant woman gets infected, including microcephaly, neurological defects, and physical impairments. Currently, there isn’t any medication to cure or vaccine to prevent a Zika virus infection, so reducing your risk of exposure is the best defense.

It’s spread by:

  • Mosquitos who have bit someone with the virus and now carry it to others.
  • Having unprotected sex with a partner who is infected.
  • Being passed in utero from a woman to her fetus.

Unfortunately – like many viruses – many adults don’t show symptoms and therefore never know they are carrying Zika virus.  Those who do become sick experience some combination of fever, rash, headache, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and muscle pain (according to the Centers for Disease Control).

Because Zika virus is primarily transmitted by certain mosquitos, there are naturally some areas of the world where it is more common and other places where it only occurs when a traveler returns home with the virus.  The CDC maintains a map that tracks Zika virus outbreaks around the world to help travelers understand the risk of visiting a particular region.

In the U.S., we have seen cases and outbreaks of Zika virus – most often in conjunction with a traveler carrying the virus home – and it’s becoming increasingly common in Central America and the Caribbean.  So far this year (as of May 2019), the CDC says, “there have been no reports of Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States.”

Zika Virus Precautions & Surrogacy: What You Need to Know

Zika virus remains in the blood stream for months after the initial infection, so if you’ve been exposed to it (either while traveling or by having unprotected sex with a potentially infected partner), you should delay pregnancy plans.  This is true for surrogates and for intended parents (if the intended parents plan to use their own egg and/or sperm).

If you or your partner are planning on traveling prior to or during the pregnancy, keep these Zika virus precautions and timeframes in mind:

  • If only the female partner(s) travel – then pregnancy should be delayed by at least 8 weeks, and the couple should practice safer sex (using a condom) or abstinence for 2 months.
  • If only the male partner travels or both partners travel – the couple should practice safer sex or abstinence for 3 months because the virus can be found in semen longer than in other bodily fluids.

Especially as the summer mosquito season begins, potential surrogates and intended parents need to take certain Zika virus precautions to protect the health of the unborn baby – even if that baby hasn’t been conceived yet and is simply a hopeful concept.

Here are the most important Zika virus precautions to consider:

  1. Talk with your doctor. Since we live in a culture where travel is common, there’s a chance (a relatively low one but still worth understanding) you could be exposed to the Zika virus even if you or your partner has not traveled to a high-risk area.  Talk with your treating physician before you become pregnant or have your eggs retrieved.
  2. Don’t travel to high-risk areas. Zika virus can remain in your blood stream for months after being infected. So, if you’re planning on becoming a surrogate or having your eggs fertilized, be very cautious about choosing travel destinations prior to conception/fertilization and while pregnant.
  3. Have safer sex. If you or your partner has traveled to a high-risk area (or if either of you has been exposed to or diagnosed with Zika virus), it’s essential that you’re diligent about using safer sex practices – specifically, using a condom.  Remember, the virus can remain in most bodily fluids for two months and can be found in semen up to three months after exposure.
  4. Prevent mosquito bites. Get a recommendation for a safe and effective mosquito repellant from your treating physician and use it religiously.  Wear loose-fitting clothes with long sleeves and pants.  Be aware of your surroundings and stay inside (or in screened-in areas) when mosquitos are active.

For more Zika virus precautions and other tips on protecting yourself, visit the CDC webpage for women who are planning to become pregnant.

Learn More About Zika Virus and Surrogacy by Talking with a Surrogacy Expert

Founded in 1990, Surrogate Parenting Services (SPS) is a full-service surrogacy program that offers both parties an exceptionally supportive environment throughout the surrogacy relationship.  We’re passionate about creating ideal matches between surrogates and intended parents, so the journey is fulfilling for both sides and the future child is brought into this world in the best possible circumstances.

Learn more about our Surrogacy Program online or by calling (949) 363-9525.