Impact of Zika for Those Going Through Fertility Treatment

How will the Zika virus and other infectious diseases impact infertility treatment, including sperm and egg donation? If you are considering IVF or artificial insemination what do you need to know about the Zika virus and other infectious diseases? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Dr. Vandana Bhide, an internist and pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Grace Centola, Tissue Bank Director, Manhattan Cryobank, and Dr. Laurence Udoff, an infertility doctor and Medical Director Fairfax Egg Bank.

Hit the Highlights
  • Since Zika has been around for a while and humans have been contracting it, why are we just now seeing the impact on pregnant women and fetuses?
  • There is strong evidenced to support that the fetus of pregnant women will be affected and the primary birth defect that we know of is microcephaly (small head size) which often results in a smaller brain, and a child with impaired development. We know there is an association, but do we know for sure that it is the Zika virus that is causing the problem. Could it be something else perhaps associated with the mosquito that is causing the birth defects?
  • There is of course concern with transmission through mosquito bites, but what do we know about transmission via intercourse?
  • Is there a specific time in the pregnancy that the fetus is most vulnerable?
  • If you don’t have symptoms yourself of the infection are you less likely to pass it on to your baby?
  • If you are exposed to Zika or have Zika during your pregnancy is there any way to tell if your baby has been affected and is there any treatment to prevent the impact on the fetus?
  • What is the incubation period for pregnancy concerns? How long should a woman be away from any possible exposure before she tries to get pregnant?
  • Why is there a concern before pregnancy since the incubation period is relatively short? Can the embryo be exposed to the virus through the mother’s blood stream before the placenta is fully developed?
  • Is there a risk from sperm donation?
  • Can Zika live in semen?
  • Can the semen sample be washed so that only the sperm cell vs seminal fluid is left? Would this remove the virus?
  • Is there a test to see if the semen is infected with Zika?
  • Will freezing the sperm kill the virus?
  • How long can the virus live in semen?
  • Can the virus by transmitted via egg donation? Or can an egg become infected or be a carrier for the virus?
  • Should infertility patients avoid egg donors that have traveled to Zika prone areas?
  • Where should women and possible sperm and egg donors avoid traveling to?
  • Where in the US can the Aedes aegypti mosquito live? Based on US experiences with similar viruses (dengue and chikungunya), we know that states like Florida, Hawaii, and Texas, may well have cases or small clusters of diseases that are spread by infected mosquitoes.
  • What is a reasonable approach to fertility treatment in respect to Zika?
  • What other infectious diseases should pregnant women or women undergoing infertility treatment be concerned about?

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Image Credit: Marcos Teixeira de Freitas