Mosquitoes, to put it mildly, are the worst. They can turn any backyard cookout or afternoon hike into a skin-slapping, welt-producing, itchy ordeal. Worse, these pesky pests can carry diseases like malaria, West Nile, and Zika virus that can cause severe illness. And if you’re pregnant around mosquitoes, watch out. Not only are mosquitoes especially attracted to pregnant people, but mosquito-transmitted illness like Zika virus can bring added risks you’re your unborn baby. Wondering how much you need to worry? Here, everything you need to know about keeping mosquitoes—and Zika virus—away.

Are mosquitoes more attracted to pregnant people?

Yes! Mosquitoes are more apt to bite parents-to-be! Research shows that mosquitoes are twice as attracted to pregnant women as non-pregnant women. While these pesky insects don’t exactly target baby bumps, they do home in on the heat that baby bumps give off. Researchers speculate that warm, pregnant bellies—plus sweat—allows mosquitoes to detect pregnant folks more easily. At the same time, pregnancy-related respiratory changes mean expectant parents exhale more carbon monoxide than usual and, you guessed it, mosquitoes are drawn to that, too.

What is Zika virus?

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause the following symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Joint and/or muscle pain

  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

  • Rash

Only 1 in 5 of folks infected with Zika virus have symptoms. Most of the time, symptoms are mild and clear in less than a week, but for a parent-to-be, even a mild case of Zika virus is dangerous for their developing fetus. That’s because the Zika virus can greatly impact their developing brain and cause long-lasting negative consequences.

How can Zika virus affect a baby during pregnancy?

Mosquitoes can be especially dangerous for pregnant people. That’s because mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika virus can not only make you particularly ill, they can potentially pass to your unborn baby, as well, which can possibly cause serious consequences.

For example, a Zika infection during pregnancy may cause:

  • Microcephaly: This is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected. If the microcephaly is severe, it can lead to a baby’s brain not developing properly.

  • Congenital Zika syndrome: Here, a distinct pattern of birth defects and disabilities are grouped together and linked to Zika. They include severe microcephaly and other health and development problems, like eye abnormalities and clubfoot.

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth: Rates are increased when infected with Zika virus.

  • Neurodevelopmental abnormalities: The CDC notes that Zika infection during pregnancy may also cause babies to experience hearing and vision loss, a limited range of motion, seizures, restricting body movement, swallowing abnormalities, and possible developmental delays.

Is Zika still a concern for pregnancy?

Ready to breathe a sigh of relief? While there are over 200 types of mosquitoes that zoom around the continental United States (and territories), a mosquito hasn’t transmitted Zika in America since 2017. But because the U.S. has had a “past transmission [of Zika,] but no current outbreak,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends that you speak to your healthcare provider about your potential risk of Zika if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

What do I need to know about Zika and travel during pregnancy?

Since there’s no vaccine to prevent Zika, nor medication to treat the virus, it all comes down to effectively warding off mosquitoes that may carry Zika. That means avoiding areas of the world that are experiencing a Zika outbreak. (Learn what those areas are through the CDC.)

While your doctor and the CDC should be your go-to for up-to-date info on Zika virus activity around the world, here are some countries that warrant a check-in with your physician before traveling to due to their history of Zika transmission:

  • Anguilla

  • Antigua

  • Argentina

  • Aruba

  • Bahamas

  • Belize

  • Cayman Islands

  • Costa Rica

  • Dominican

  • Ecuador

  • El Salvador

  • France

  • Guatemala

  • Honduras

  • India

  • Indonesia

  • Jamaica

  • Malaysia

  • Mexico

  • Nicaragua

  • Nigeria

  • Peru

  • Puerto Rico

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis

  • Saint Lucia

  • Thailand

  • Turks and Caicos

  • U.S. Virgin Islands

And even if you’ve stuck close to home during pregnancy, it’s important to use condoms if you’re having sex with someone has traveled to an area where Zika is spreading.

How can I prevent Zika?

In addition to avoiding potentially risky destinations, the best way to prevent Zika is to effectively shield yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Wear mosquito-deterrent clothes. When in a mosquito-heavy area, wear long sleeves and long pants, ideally made from woven cotton, denim, or nylon. Be sure your socks and shoes cover your feet and ankles.

  • Choose these Mosquitoes are attracted to dark and bright colors and floral patterns, so it’s best to dress in light colors when in an area with mosquito potential.

  • Apply insect repellent like this. If you’re going camping or you know you’ll be in a mosquito ridden area, apply the insecticide permethrin (0.5%) to your clothing, shoes—and even your tent (Don’t use permethrin on your skin.)

  • Avoid peak biting hours. Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, which is when mosquitoes are most active.

  • Use proper bug spray. Your best bet is an EPA-approved bug spray that contains DEET or Picaridin. (The CDC also okays oil of lemon eucalyptus, R3535, Para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone.) When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.

  • Clean the yard. Check planters, outdoor toys, bird baths, and more for any standing water…then empty what you see! Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.

  • Check your screens. Don’t leave your windows or doors open unless they have screens. Spot a tear in the screen? Patch it!

  • Turn on a fan. Mosquitoes aren’t strong flyers, so they’ll try hard to avoid the fast-moving air that emits from a fan.

Zika and Pregnancy: Final Thoughts

If you haven’t spent time in an area with recent Zika transmissions, your risk for infection is low. But if you’re planning on trying to get pregnant and you do think you’ve been exposed to Zika, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider!


You May Also Be Interested In…



  • Mosquitoes prefer pregnant women. BMJ. June 2000
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Zika Virus: What Parents Need to Know
  • March of Dimes: Microcephaly
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Congenital Zika Syndrome & Other Birth Defects
  • March of Dimes: Zika virus and pregnancy
  • CDC: What We Know about Zika and Pregnancy
  • CDC: Mosquitoes in the United States
  • CDC: Areas at Risk for Zika
  • CDC: Zika Travel Information
  • AAP: Choosing an Insect Repellent for Your Child
  • CDC: Prevent Mosquito Bites

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.