How A Gynecologist Treats Women Diagnosed With The Zika Virus
Earlier this year, we reported on a pregnant teenager who contracted the Zika virus in Central America and decided to keep her baby. Although she was commended for making such a brave choice, the teenager was also ridiculed for not aborting her infant. So how do doctors react when they have to diagnose and treat women who have contracted the virus and who are also with child? Dr. Christine Curry of Miami, Florida, shared how doctors navigate this sensitive topic in her XO Jane piece, “I’m an OB-GYN Treating Women With Zika, And This Is What It’s Like.”
“When I talk to patients these days, I ask them where they or family members have traveled recently. These are questions OB-GYNs across the country may ask pregnant patients. And since I practice in Miami, I might also ask patients if they have been in Wynwood, the neighborhood where local mosquito transmission has occurred. Since Zika is primarily spread by mosquitoes, I also talk with patients about avoiding mosquito bites and using bug repellent. Sexual transmission is also possible, and we talk about that, too,” she writes.
Dr. Curry continued by noting that she worries about her patients who’ve traveled to the Miami neighborhood Wynwood or abroad where the virus is prevalent. She also went on to share that if a woman is pregnant, the state of Florida will be offering free Zika testing for all women in the state through the Department of Health.
Although we know the Zika virus causes deformities in babies, Dr. Curry confirmed that there are still many unknowns about how the virus affects infants. “How does the virus get into the fetus? Researchers are still figuring that out. In which trimester does infection pose the highest risk? And do complications for the fetus vary by time of infection? It is going to take time to understand all of [these] risks.”
As of July 28, the CDC reported that there were 15 babies born with birth defects from the virus and six pregnancy losses in the United States, Dr. Curry shared.
Being a part of this experience has allowed Dr. Curry to gain another level of humility; she claims that even though she’s the doctor, both she and her patients are learning about the virus together, and sometimes it’s her patients teaching her about the virus through the changes occurring in their body —especially if they’re with child. For example, she vulnerably revealed that an infant can look normal in an ultrasound during the earlier trimesters but then physical effects of the virus can be seen in an ultrasound in the last trimester and even with that an ultrasound cannot pick up on every birth defect.
“Even with planning, there are still many questions we can’t answer for our patients. For instance, if a baby is born with microcephaly, we don’t know the exact issues that the baby might have. This means the mother won’t know right away if her child will lead a normal life or will always need medical care,” Dr. Curry disclosed.
To read Dr. Curry’s entire piece, click here.