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So, you want to freeze your eggs, but you also want to travel — potentially to an area reportedly affected by the Zika virus. You’ve heard a lot here and there about the serious risks of Zika, but does living your globetrotting dreams mean you need to put your egg freezing plans on hold? 

In this article, we will delve into what the Zika virus is, where you could contract it, and how it could impact the outcome of egg freezing cycles. Additionally, we will discuss the regulations and guidelines set forth by fertility clinics, as well as specific considerations for egg donation. The TLDR: we recommend proper planning, timing, and precautions, (especially if you’re freezing your eggs for free when you donate half to another family who can’t conceive), when it comes to traveling to an area affected by Zika.

What is Zika and where is it found? 

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus primarily transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. While Zika virus infection often presents with mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, it poses a significant risk to pregnant individuals due to its association with congenital Zika syndrome, which can result in severe birth defects such as microcephaly. 

The virus has been found to persist in bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal secretions, for an extended period, raising concerns about the potential transmission of Zika through reproductive tissues. So, even if you yourself did not travel to a Zika-affected area, if you had sex with someone who did, there still poses a risk. Unfortunately, there are currently no vaccines available to prevent contracting Zika. 

Zika virus has been reported in various regions globally, with particular prevalence in tropical and subtropical areas. Countries with ongoing transmission of Zika virus include but are not limited to parts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. It's important for individuals considering egg freezing to stay informed about current Zika-affected regions, as travel to these areas may impact their fertility treatment plans. The good news is that according to the CDC, since 2019, there have been no confirmed Zika virus cases from US territories. 

How Zika could impact your egg freezing cycle?

Research about Zika and egg freezing is scarce and ongoing. But if you’re considering undergoing egg freezing, exposure to Zika could have implications on the success of the procedure. Zika virus infection could potentially impact the quality and viability of eggs, leading to compromised outcomes in your egg-freezing cycle. And because Zika is a virus that may be able to be transmitted sexually, there is a concern that the risk of Zika can be transmitted through the fertilization process. 

Fertility clinic regulations and guidelines

In response to the Zika virus outbreak, many fertility clinics have implemented strict regulations and guidelines to mitigate the risk of transmission and ensure the safety of patients undergoing assisted reproductive procedures. These regulations often include restrictions on travel to Zika-affected areas for individuals undergoing fertility treatments, including egg freezing. 

We recommend notifying your fertility clinic as soon as possible of any upcoming travel to a Zika-affected area, and you can discuss with your doctor how this should (or shouldn’t) impact your cycle timeline.

Zika guidelines for egg donation 

When it comes to egg donation in particular, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have provided guidance to fertility clinics regarding the handling of reproductive tissues in the context of Zika virus transmission. According to the latest guidance published in 2018, the use of sperm, eggs, and embryos from a donor is not recommended if he/she/they: 

  • Have had a diagnosis of Zika virus infection in the past 6 months
  • Reside in or traveled to an area with active Zika virus transmission within the past 6 months
  • Have had sex with a person if within the past six months that person was diagnosed with Zika, experienced an illness consistent with Zika, or traveled to an area with active Zika transmission

This guidance applies to both disclosed and undisclosed donations. However, in the case of a disclosed donation, many fertility clinics are willing to waive the six-month quarantine if both the donor and intended parents agree. 

So, what should you do?

We get it — when there’s still so much to learn about Zika, understanding its potential impact upon your egg freezing cycle can feel confusing. If you’re planning an egg freezing or donation cycle, it’s crucial to stay informed about Zika-affected areas and adhere to the regulations and guidelines set forth by fertility clinics and regulatory bodies. 

Again, when in doubt, consult with your reproductive endocrinologist for the latest guidance and recommendations. They’ll help you navigate how this may affect your egg freezing timeline and decision-making. By prioritizing safety and asking the right questions, you can make informed choices to protect your reproductive health and achieve your fertility goals.