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More than half of women in Brazil avoiding pregnancy due to Zika virus

Experts have called for a review of the criminalisation of abortion and better access to contraception for women in Brazil after research revealed more than 50% are avoiding getting pregnant because of the Zika virus. 

Experts have called for a review of the criminalisation of abortion and better access to contraception for women in Brazil after research revealed more than 50% are avoiding getting pregnant because of the Zika virus. 


Women in Brazil are avoiding pregnancy for fear of contracting the Zika virus. Picture: iStock

To understand how the Zika epidemic has affected reproductive health practices, a team of doctors conducted a national survey in June 2016. Data was collected from 2,002 Brazilian women aged 18-39, around 83% of the total female population. 

1,845

confirmed cases of congenital Zika syndrome in babies since the outbreak in Brazil  

Face-to-face questionnaires were used to collect data about reproductive health and pregnancy, and a secret ballot box was used to obtain information about abortion experiences. 

Shaping intentions 

More than half (56%) of the women reported that they had avoided or tried to avoid pregnancy because of the Zika epidemic. In northeastern Brazil – where the epidemic was more concentrated – 66% of women said they avoided pregnancy, compared to 46% of southern women. 

‘The results provide an important first glimpse into how the Zika epidemic has shaped pregnancy intentions among women in Brazil,’ the researchers said. 

‘As indicated by the high proportion of women who avoided pregnancy because of Zika, the Brazilian government must place reproductive health concerns at the centre of its response, including reviewing its continued criminalisation of abortion.’ 


Diniz D et al (2016) Letter to the editor: Brazilian women avoiding pregnancy during Zika epidemic. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. doi:10.1136/jfprhc-2016-101678 

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