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Are women avoiding pregnancy due to Zika virus?

Washington: A new study reveals that more than 50 percent of women in Brazil are avoiding pregnancy due to the Zika epidemic.

The study was published online in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

According to researchers, there is an urgent need to reconsider abortion criminalisation and also to improve reproductive health policies to ensure women have access to safe and effective contraceptives.

Since the outbreak of Zika in Brazil, there have been 1,845 confirmed cases of congenital Zika syndrome in babies.

A team of doctors, led by Professor Debora Diniz from University of Brasília, wanted to understand how the epidemic has impacted reproductive health practices.

A national survey conducted in June 2016 used face-to-face questionnaires to collect data about reproductive health and pregnancy and a secret ballot box to obtain information related to abortion experiences.

The data were collected from 2,002 urban and literate Brazilian women aged 18-39 years, corresponding to 83 percent of the total female population.

The study found that over half (56 percent) the women reported that they had avoided, or tried to avoid pregnancy because of the Zika epidemic.

“The results provide an important first glimpse into how the Zika epidemic has shaped pregnancy intentions among women in Brazil,” the authors explained.

“Brazil must urgently re-evaluate its reproductive health policies to ensure better access to contraception information and methods” they argue.

This includes making available a wider range of contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraception, which are either scarce, such as the copper intrauterine device, or not available, such as hormonal implants, through public health services.

“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,” the authors concluded. (ANI)