Posts Tagged ‘OTIS’

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Zika

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

This year the theme of  National Birth Defects Prevention Month is Prevent to Protect. This week we will be posting a series of guest posts from MotherToBaby’s Kirstie Perrotta, MPH, Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, Robert Felix and Susan Sherman of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Zika Task Force. Each day they will respond to one of the top five questions they receive about preventable infectious diseases and what you can do to prevent exposure during pregnancy.

“It’s 2018! I didn’t even know you could get syphilis nowadays!” Yes, I mentioned the stats about syphilis and other infections that can affect pregnancy to the caller who had contacted me through our free MotherToBaby helpline. I thought, this is a great time to educate her as well as others about a variety of infections. Some infections, like Zika, seem to make headlines every week, while others tend to be discussed much less frequently. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s focus is on infection prevention.

One of our most common Zika questions comes from couples who have just returned home after a tropical vacation: How long do we need to wait to get pregnant after returning from a country with Zika, and what should we do in the meantime to minimize risk? Can we be tested?

Many countries continue to see active transmission of Zika virus from infected mosquitoes. If a woman is infected with Zika during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of microcephaly (small head and brain) and other severe brain defects. It may also cause eye defects, hearing loss, seizures, and problems with the joints and limb movement. That’s why it’s so important for couples who are planning a pregnancy to make sure the virus is completely out of their bodies before they attempt to conceive.

So, how long do couples need to wait? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women who travel to a country with Zika wait at least two months before attempting to get pregnant. If a male partner travels, the CDC recommends waiting six months. Some callers ask, “Why so long? We’re ready to get pregnant now!” Although the virus is expected to leave most people’s blood in about two weeks, this could vary depending on a number of factors including their own immunity. The CDC considers 2 months to be a long enough wait time for women. As for men? Zika has been found in the semen for up to 6 months after a man is first infected. The six-month wait time ensures that men do not pass the virus to their partners during intercourse if it is still present in their semen.

Practicing safe sex is important during these wait times! Since Zika can spread through sexual contact, using condoms or dental dams is recommended every time a couple has intercourse. Don’t want to use protection? 100% abstinence is another option. These safe sex precautions significantly reduce the risk of transferring the virus from one partner to another during these important wait times.

Couples who want to get pregnant right away will often ask, “Instead of waiting, isn’t there a way my doctor can just test me for the virus?” Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not so simple. The CDC does not recommend testing as a way to know if it’s “safe” to get pregnant. For one reason, the virus could have already left your blood, but could still be hanging out in other areas of the body (like semen). In this case, you could get a negative blood test result, but still have the virus. Second, no test is 100% accurate. There’s always a chance that your result could be a false negative, especially if you are tested too soon or too late after returning home from a country with Zika.

So, the bottom line? It’s a waiting game. Couples should follow the CDC’s official recommendations to make sure their pregnancy has the healthiest start possible. Still have questions or concerns about Zika? Check out Zika Central on or call us at 866-626-6847 to speak with a specialist who can assess your specific exposure.

Other posts in the series:

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Listeria

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Toxoplasmosis

“Spread Prevention, Not the Infection” during Pregnancy: Syphilis

About MotherToBaby 

MotherToBabyis a service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), suggested resources by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have questions about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, please call MotherToBaby toll-FREE at 866-626-6847 or try out MotherToBaby’s new text information service by texting questions to (855) 999-3525. You can also visit to browse a library of fact sheets about dozens of viruses, medications, vaccines, alcohol, diseases, or other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding or connect with all of our resources by downloading the new MotherToBaby free app, available on Android and iOS markets.

Pills and pregnancy – what’s safe and what’s not

Friday, January 18th, 2013

pillsYou may have been taking meds for a chronic condition for years. Some are fine to continue during pregnancy and some won’t be safe for a developing baby. It’s important to check with your doc before you conceive, if you’re planning ahead, so that you can be shifted to a safer alternative, if necessary.

But let’s face it, more than half of all pregnancies are not planned. Once you find out, you may have questions about your meds during pregnancy.  So how do you know if what you’re taking is still OK? The most important thing is to talk with your health care provider. He/she knows you and your medical history best and can make whatever adjustments are best for you. Don’t stop taking your medication, however, without your doc’s knowledge.

In the meantime, there is an excellent organization that can help give you valuable information about the safety of medications during pregnancy. The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) is a group of highly trained professionals who are dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about medications (prescription or over-the-counter), vaccines, chemical and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  They can tell you whether a mother’s exposure might be harmful to her baby. Their toll-free number is 866-626-6847 and calls are kept anonymous and confidential. You can read a number of their fact sheets at this link.

Allergies and pregnancy

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

allergies21I can play tic-tac-toe in the pollen that’s covering my car. I have to admit that I love looking at the trees while their leaves burst forth, but the green and yellow tumbleweed they generate gets blown around by traffic and makes my morning commute the beginning of a pollen-producing head pounder.

If this happens to you and you’re thinking of being tested for allergies but hope to become pregnant soon, either test before you become pregnant or wait until after you have your baby. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy because there is a small risk that anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can include hives, swelling of the tongue and throat, possibly loss of consciousness. During pregnancy, a severe case of anaphylaxis might decrease blood and oxygen flowing to the uterus, possibly harming the fetus.

If you already are taking allergy shots, tell your provider you’re thinking about pregnancy. Depending on your personal situation, your doc may choose to continue the shots full strength, dilute them to 50% or discontinue them. It’s good to have a plan in place before you conceive.

In the meantime, what can you do? Always ask your provider what’s safe for you before taking something. As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good for keeping your nasal passages moist and helping you blow away the nasties. Nasal steroids should be avoided unless prescribed by your doc. Many antihistamines generally are considered safe to use. Decongestants, however, should be avoided during the first trimester due to a possible association with an intestinal defect in the fetus.

If you have a question about the safety of a medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding (over-the-counter or prescription), contact OTIS, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

Top preventable birth defects

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

January is National Birth Defects Prevention month.  We posted earlier on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.

The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) is a group of highly trained professionals who are dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about medications (prescription or over-the-counter), vaccines, chemical and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  They tell you whether a mother’s exposure to something might be harmful to her baby.

In honor of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, OTIS counselors are stepping up efforts to help educate the public. Counselors, who provide women answers to questions about specific exposures during pregnancy and lactation through a toll-free hotline, (866) 626-6847, and website,, have compiled a list of a few of the preventable causes of some of the most common birth defects.  Click on this link to read their information.

Unsafe seasonal snacks

Monday, December 13th, 2010

holiday-treatsIt’s the holidays and you’re pregnant. You want to share in the culinary delights of the season but you’re not sure what’s safe and what to avoid. It’s not a question of whether or not to overindulge, it’s what treats are OK?

The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) has a list that is very helpful. Aside from their regular publications on the safety of different medications, counselors affiliated with OTIS have compiled a list of the most common holiday foods and treats to avoid during pregnancy. From eggnog to pates and imported candies, you’ll find good information.  Check it out.

Are antidepressant meds safe during pregnancy?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

depressionDepression is a serious illness and shouldn’t be ignored.  If you are being treated for depression with a medication and are hoping to become pregnant, it’s good to know that most antidepressant medications have not been linked to a higher risk of birth defects in babies. Some antidepressants taken in the last trimester of pregnancy may produce temporary side effects in the baby, however, such as jitteriness, difficulty feeding, sleeping or breathing.  In most cases, these side effects last only a few days.

It’s not a good idea to stop your medication when you get that positive pregnancy test result.  Studies have reported higher rates of miscarriage, low birthweight and babies who are small-for-gestational age when depression is left untreated during pregnancy.  Your provider may want to lower your dosage or change your medication.  Stopping it all together can lead to the return of your symptoms of depression, too.  A relapse of depression during pregnancy could increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Read more.

Some antidepressants have been studied more thoroughly than others.  You can get specific information about your medication by contacting OTIS, the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

Talk with your provider about the best way for you to approach pregnancy.  Once you are pregnant, keep in touch so you can make any adjustments that may be necessary to help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.