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Access to Contraception to Mitigate Potential Impact of Zika Virus

10 February 2016
Access to contraceptives will be a very important factor in mitigating the potential impact of the Zika virus should it spread in the Philippines. Women who are currently not planning to become pregnant should have full access to information and services that can help them prevent unplanned pregnancies. (Photo: UNFPA Philippines)

Following the World Health Organization's declaration of the recent cluster of microcephaly cases as a global health emergency due to its strongly suspected link to the mosquito-borne Zika virus, ​the United Nations Population Fund​has called for intensified efforts to ensure access to reproductive health services of those potentially affected by the infection.​

In the event that the widespread transmission of the Zika virus occurs in the Philippines, the greatest risk will likely be to pregnant women. Most of those infected by the virus experience no symptoms, and for those who do, the illness is usually mild. However​,​ the implications for the fetus can be extremely serious, especially during early stages of pregnancy, potentially before a woman is aware of her pregnancy.

Pregnant women and those of childbearing age who are not using modern contraceptive methods should therefore take extra care to avoid exposure to mosquito bites, wear protective clothing, use insecticide-treated mosquito nets and apply insect repellents approved for use by pregnant women.

UNFPA further emphasizes that women who are currently not planning to become pregnant should have full access to information and services that can help them prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“Access to contraceptives, including condoms, will be a very important factor in mitigating the potential impact of the Zika virus should it spread in the Philippines. As many poor women cannot afford the cost of contraceptives, this will need to be urgently addressed by the provision of contraceptives as guaranteed under the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law,” said UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck.

The developing Zika situation serves to underline the importance that all women who are pregnant should seek prenatal care to receive information and monitoring of their pregnancy and to follow their doctors’ recommendations. Pregnant women in general, and particularly those who develop symptoms of the Zika virus infection, should be closely monitored by health providers.