I want to get pregnant, but Zika.
May 23, 2016 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Is now a stupid time for a woman living on the East Coast to get pregnant?

I'm a 33 year old woman with one child. I'm hoping to have two more, and would really like to have another one asap. However, I'm pretty worried about Zika. I live on the East Coast near Rhode Island, so not in one of the areas that are expected to be hit big, but I keep hearing that it is likely to reach as far north as New York. My husband on the other hand, does not worry about this at all but is willing to wait.

I know no one else can make this decision for us, but I'm curious as to others' thoughts. Am I being silly or prudent?
posted by Miss Viola Swamp to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in Texas and hoping to be pregnant this year and this fear pops up in me about once per week. Of course you aren't silly, this is a big deal and it is new and scary because we don't really know everything yet.

Personally, I'm not ready to put off pregnancy (I've spent too much time getting ready for IVF that I don't want to stop now). There is always a risk, always something, and you can't control so much of life that at some point you just have to do life anyway. That's how I feel about it for myself at least.

So far I've been coping by buying bug spray every time I go to Target.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Considering the virus has never been found within a few thousand miles of you I would suggest you shouldn't worry at all about getting Zika. If anything, it could become more widespread- meaning the longer you wait the greater the risk will become.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 5:05 PM on May 23, 2016 [36 favorites]

The mosquitos that carry zika do not occur in RI. There has been one confirmed case in RI, but that person had recently traveled to Haiti, where Zika is active. So I would conclude that your risk of acquiring zika is incredibly tiny, as in close to zero. And when you say "willing to wait", it is not clear what you would be waiting for.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:09 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Zika virus is most likely to be spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. According to this CDC map, that particular type of mosquito doesn't live as far north as Rhode Island. Therefore, I would say the risk of contracting Zika is not very high.
posted by Lingasol at 5:09 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

You aren't silly, any risk in pregnancy is scary. That said this really isn't something to worry about at this time. This is scary because it's what people and the media are talking about right now, not because the risk is meaningful.

Your risk in Rhode Island is so unbelievably low. There have still been zero locally acquired vector-borne cases of Zika reported in the US, and only a handful of travel-related cases. Avoid flying in sperm donors from Brazil and you're fine.

Also it's worth remembering that Zika does not automatically equal birth defects. First, you'd have to actually get Zika, which is highly unlikely. Then you'd have to pass it on to your fetus, which is certainly not guaranteed. Then, yes, there is a correlation between microcephaly and other birth defects and Zika but the causation is not fully understood and again it's not a 1:1 correlation.

Maybe this isn't helpful but your chance of being injured in a car is a vastly bigger risk than Zika. Heck, I'm not going to start trying to scaremonger with stats because all of this is highly unlikely but toxoplasmosis or congenital CMV infection can also cause microcephaly and you're probably more likely to encounter them than Zika in the US.

And finally, on a cynical note given the realities of climate change and the variety of mosquito-borne illnesses in the world it's not like there's ever going to be a time in the foreseeable future when conditions will be any better for pregnancy.
posted by Wretch729 at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm in Hawaii. My thoughts and those of my currently-or-soon-to-be pregnant friends living here match those of magnetsphere. No one knows how widespread Zika will be, whether there will be a reliable vaccine for it, whether there will be treatment or cure for pregnant women infected with Zika, whether it will jump to other non-aegypti mosquitoes -- no one can say if or when it will get better -- if in three years it's dramatically worse, will you regret waiting? If in three years it turned out to be a weird short-term anomaly, will you regret waiting?
posted by melissasaurus at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

The cases of people getting infected with zika outside the carrier mosquitos' zone were a result of sexually transmitted infection. So if you're trying to get pregnant, it is inadvisable to have unprotected sex with people who have recently travelled to confirmed-affected regions.
posted by lizbunny at 6:25 PM on May 23, 2016

Despite being the paranoid person who wouldn't visit family in the last Zika thread, I'd be okay with this plan. I mean, really, your best-case scenario is getting pregnant immediately, because it's basically impossible that anything is going to spread your way yet this summer, and then it will be winter/spring and you're done. On the other hand, if you don't get pregnant right away, it's exactly the same as having waited, and you can make informed decisions about the actual situation on a month-by-month basis, if you want.
posted by teremala at 6:49 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Compared to the wealth of other terrible things that could go wrong in your pregnancy, this is like avoiding driving to the store on Saturday morning because the people who were out drinking on Friday night might be behind the wheel and still be drunk.

Yes, it is a possible danger. But you had already decided that it was worth pursuing this course of action that has dangers, and this new potential danger is so small that it can't reasonably tip the scales from good idea to bad idea.
posted by 256 at 7:43 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're living on the East Coast near Rhode Island. If you drive a car or sit in a car, you are more likely to die in a car crash (1 in 6700) than you would of your baby contracting Zika.

Only 1 in 100 pregnant women who have contracted Zika have a baby born with microcephaly. Risky. But what are the chances of even contracting Zika in the first place? What are your base rate assumptions? If you live in the East Coast, where there is sparse to none Aedes mosquitoes, I would guess a 1 in 10,000 chance of contracting Zika. Your probability of your baby getting microceplahy multiplies: 1:10000 x 1: 1000 = 1 in ten million chance of contracting Zika.

In other words, you have pretty much close to a nil chance of contracting Zika.

See my previous comment for some more statistics.

Now obviously these odds will change as more research develop. But it is definitely a lot more rational if you think of base rates and statistics.

Fear of your baby contracting Zika is far, far less rational than a fear of being in a car crash.

Some anecdata if you wish: I lived in a large city in a third-world country in SE Asia for the first 19 years of my life. This is where the Aedes mosquito breeds. Aedes mosquitoes also transmit dengue disease. I have never contracted dengue, nor anyone within my immediate family or friends. And I used to get mosquito bites on a daily basis.
posted by moiraine at 3:39 AM on May 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Apologies, I have mixed up some of my terms above.

One in ten million chance refers to the probability of your baby getting microcephaly. (and not of you getting Zika, which is 1:10000).

Typed in work, apologies if mixed up.
posted by moiraine at 3:46 AM on May 24, 2016

You have a vastly greater risk of being struck by lightning today while worrying about Zika than you have of contracting it.
posted by dmd at 6:44 AM on May 24, 2016

There are fewer restrictions on late-term abortions in New England compared to other regions so even if the worst happens you still have an out.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:09 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Regarding the above statistical rumination, I disagree that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of someone who lives in the Rhode Island area getting Zika.

There is no endemic Zika virus in RI and the mosquitoes who transmit it are not found there per specialists from RI, so RI is not just 'not expected to be hit big', it's basically not expecting to be hit at all except by people coming from elsewhere or the people who have sexual contact with them (the CDC shows maps estimating RI as the absolute northernmost point at which you might find an Aedes albopticus mosquito in the year 2016, but it seems pretty theoretical considering other recent maps of that mosquito's range don't extend that far north. The only cases in RI have been travel-associated (there have been 3 cases per CDC). Zika could reach New York but in current climate state it's still going to be very rare there, and Rhode Island is ~5 degrees colder than NYC according to the climate record sites.

I'm not sure where the "guess" of 1 in 10,000 as a risk for contracting Zika came from but I don't see any scientific evidence to bear that out. "Close to nil" or "essentially nil" are more accurate. To the OP, get pregnant now, before climate change significantly alters the above current facts.

All that being said, I absolutely agree with the assessment that your likelihood of being in a car crash is much higher than your likelihood of contracting Zika virus if you do not travel south. Your likelihood of being struck by lightning in a given year is apparently about 1 in 1.2 million, which I think is also higher than your chance of getting Zika under current circumstances.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:27 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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