I’m pregnant. What should I do to protect myself?
Infection among pregnant women is a concern, since babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika (particularly in the first trimester) are at higher risk of devastating birth defects like microcephaly. The National Institutes of Health estimates that risk at 1 to 13 percent of babies born to Zika-infected mothers.
Protecting yourself from getting bitten by mosquitoes is the most important step you can take to safeguard your baby. Dr. Patrick Ramsey, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with UT Medicine San Antonio and University Health System says expectant mothers should routinely use a mosquito repellent conaining DEET.
DEET is a chemical that does not kill mosquitoes, but it impairs mosquitos’ ability to locate and bite a victim. Ramsey says “DEET has shown no significant adverse outcomes for pregnant and non-pregnant patients.” If a small amount of DEET does get absorbed into the body, it is excreted in urine.
In August 2016, Texas Medicaid announced it would pay for mosquito repellent for women ages 10 to 45 and pregnant women. Eligible women with a prescription from their doctor can get two cans of repellent each month from a pharmacy free.
When possible, the Centers for Disease Control suggests:
- Staying indoors whenever you can
- Sleep in an air conditioned environment with the windows closed
- Make sure the screens on your windows/doors/porches are intact
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and treat the exposed parts of your body with mosquito repellent
- Treat your clothes with permethrin, a type of insecticide
- Dump out standing water in your yard. Mosquitoes can breed there.
- Avoid unprotected sex with a partner who has traveled to a Zika-infected region or who has tested positive for the virus
- Avoid travel to an area with Zika
Talk to your obstetrician about any concerns you may have. Your physician may suggest testing for Zika, depending on your travel history. If you are high risk, your pregnancy may be monitored more closely.