Siobhan M. Dolan, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical Advisor, March of Dimes
Congratulations, you’ve decided to start a family — or you’re already pregnant. Now begins one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding times in your life. As an OB-GYN, I tell my patients about specific steps they can take now on the journey to parenthood to give their future child the best possible start in life. Which brings me first to the travel-related precautions that every mom-to-be and her partner needs to know about in this age of Zika virus.
Zika is most harmful to pregnant women and their babies because it causes serious birth defects, including microcephaly and other brain disorders. Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas, butif you believe you absolutely must visit these areas, talk to your health care provider before you travel and take steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.
In the Americas, practice safe sex by using condoms if your partner has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area or may be infected. And remember — this situation won’t last forever. Once the baby is born, after a few months, you’ll be able to travel for work or to visit family and friends with peace of mind.
Some other essential steps to help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby include: start taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, a B vitamin and continue this into early pregnancy; take control of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure; make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations; don’t take any medication — especially herbal products, prescription pain medications or statins — before checking with your doctor.
Wash your hands often, including before and after preparing food. Avoid fish high in mercury or lead, and steer clear of raw or undercooked eggs or meat, raw sprouts, unpasteurized juices and dairy products. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zikas; stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles. Last of all, let someone else clean the cat’s litter box.