Menu

What mothers and pregnant women should know about Zika virus

Vacations to the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America are out—for now. Here’s what else you need to know.

What mothers and pregnant women should know about Zika virus

You’ve probably read the headlines about Zika virus and birth defects—and you might be freaking out. Before you worry any more, check out the latest on exactly what’s known, and we’ll keep updating as more information comes in.


Keep calm and carry on, mama. ?

Long story short

We know the news sounds scary: The Zika virus, a mosquito-born illness that has broken out in Brazil, has been linked to severe birth defects in the babies of pregnant women.

Since the outbreak, Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas.

Public health experts are scrambling to determine the exact relationship between Zika and birth defects, and how to prevent the disease’s spread and impact.

The CDC recommends that all women who or pregnant or are trying to become pregnant consider avoiding travel to Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Many airlines are offering free refunds and rebooking for pregnant women canceling trips to Zika-hit countries.

How it works. . .

The birth defect is microcephaly, a condition characterized by a small head and brain damage. It is believed that the infants’ condition may be caused when their pregnant mothers are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the virus.

Public health experts don’t yet fully understand the link between contracting the virus and the birth defects.

In fact, while initially it was reported that there have been as many as 4,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October, new numbers reveal that that figure included all once-suspected cases, and “confirmed cases of microcephaly linked to Zika in Brazil are still in the single digits.”

However, the virus has been found in the bodies of babies with microcephaly who died in infancy.

The World Health organization notes that “agencies investigating the Zika outbreaks are finding an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly.”

Doctors also think it’s possible that the disease can be sexually transmitted if one partner has the virus, but are looking into the link.

You should know. . .

Public health experts do not have a clear sense of the scope of the birth defects—for example, they are unsure of the rate at which pregnant women who contract Zika later have babies with microcephaly.

In the United States, public health experts are divided over whether or not Zika is likely to spread throughout the country.

The experts say. . .

Dr. Brian Levine, a leading OB/GYN who practices with Maven, the digital health clinic for women, keeps it simple for mamas wondering what they can do:

First and foremost, limit travel to affected regions. That is the easiest way to address this concern. For pregnant women who reside in, or must travel to, areas affected by the pandemic, the CDC is currently recommending that women take extreme precautions minimize the risk of mosquito bites including but not limited to:

• Staying and sleeping in screened or air-conditioned rooms;

• Covering exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants;

• Using insect repellents containing DEET, or other agents considered safe in pregnancy; and

• Wearing permethrin-treated clothing and gear

Motherly expert pediatrician, Seattle Mama Doc Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, reminds women that:

“Zika virus will only affect an unborn baby who is exposed to Zika in utero if mom is infected WHILE she is pregnant. Meaning, women not pregnant who get Zika can have Zika virus, clear the virus from her bloodstream (typically about one week after illness resolves) and not transmit Zika to future babies.”

Some mamas ask. . .

What happens if Zika becomes widespread in the United States?

Dr. Levine answers:

“The type of mosquito capable of carrying and spreading the disease, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is not uncommon in South Florida. It is the same mosquito that has transmitted the tropical diseases of yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. With that said, we have not seen infected Aedes aegypti mosquitos as of yet in the continental United States. If Zika were to be suspected in the United States, it’s important to know that we have robust infrastructure to manage mosquito infestations. For example, in Miami-Dade County, the Mosquito Control Unit is not doing anything additional because of the Zika virus, but the department actively monitors the mosquito population and responds to complaints about mosquito activity.”

And remember. . .

Information about Zika is constantly being updated as new research and insights come in.

Join Motherly

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

    $269.99

    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

    $99.99

    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

    $99.99

    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

    $219.99

    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

    $99.99

    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

    $64.99

    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

    $29.99

    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

    $165.99

    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

    $39.99

    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

    $39.99

    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    Our Partners

    It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

    Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

    Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

    Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

    Keep reading Show less
    News

    29 last-minute family Halloween costumes you can pull together NOW

    If your little one is going as a lion, coordinating is as easy as breaking out the khaki!

    Here's how Halloween unfolds in most households I know: Mom spends weeks—even months—planning the perfect costumes for little ones. Then Halloween creeps up and they realize they need an outfit to coordinate with the kids' get-ups. What's a mom to do?!

    Thankfully, there's no need for fear or pressure: There are so many ideas for parents that are easy to make and still super clever.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life