'Don't Get Pregnant to Avoid Zika-Linked Microcephaly': Will It Work?

Jennifer L.W. Fink, BSN


February 26, 2016

In This Article


Several South and Central American governments made headlines—and stunned healthcare providers around the world—when they issued public health recommendations asking women to avoid pregnancy for the foreseeable future.

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Jamaica have asked women to delay pregnancy for at least the next few months to a year; El Salvador has asked women to not get pregnant until 2018.[1,2,3]

These remarkable recommendations were fueled by international concern over possible links between Zika virus infection and serious birth defects, specifically microcephaly. And while there's no disagreement that the recent apparent epidemic of microcephaly cases in South and Central America is a public health crisis, the recommendations themselves have spurred a lot of debate and discussion.

Here in the United States, some healthcare professionals are openly doubtful that the recommendations will have any meaningful impact on Zika-linked health outcomes.

"When a government comes out and says, 'Don't get pregnant for 2 years,' that's the clearest indication of their desperation," said K. C. Rondello, MD, a disaster epidemiologist with the US Department of Health and Human Services' National Disaster Medical System.

Yet others acknowledge that, given the limited knowledge health officials have regarding Zika and the potential devastation of microcephaly on children, families, and society, the health officials in affected countries may have felt a responsibility to warn women to avoid pregnancy if possible.


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