Over half of the young women postpone pregnancy afraid of the Zika virus impact

Number of women who reported postponing pregnancy in the Northeast (66%) compared to those in the South (46%) called attention of scientists


Black and dark-skinned women are the vulnerable ethnicities that cannot move away from the epidemic, unlike the elites. This is another element of inequality in this public health emergency

A study at Brasilia University (UnB) assessed over 2,000 Brazilian women, aging from 18 to 39 years-old. The data reveals the impact of the epidemic among social groups held as vulnerable while demonstrating that black and brown-skinned women were more likely to avoid pregnancy than white women were. The survey shows an important insight about how the Zika outbreak lead Brazilian women to rethink their intentions to become pregnant. The study was published in December 22, in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

For further details about the research, the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicines (BSTM) press advisory interviewed the anthropologist, professor at UnB and author of the book Zika, from the Northeastern Sertão to Global Threat, Debora Diniz, who lead the team.

BSTM: How did you come up with the idea of this study conducted at Brasilia University?

Dr. Debora Diniz: The study from 2016 is the second edition and follows the same guidelines of the National Research on Abortion from 2010, also conducted by Anis – Bioethics Institute and Brasilia University. The researchs main goal was to assess the magnitude of the abortion issue in Brazil. Zika came up as an attempt to understand how this such severe outbreak could affect womens reproduction projects.

BSTM: How was the research conducted?

Dr. Debora Diniz: 2,002 women from urban Brazilian cities were interviewed. The number of interviewed Brazilian women is based on a representative sample of the female population, aging from 18 to 39 years-old, in urban areas and literate. We used two combined methods for data collection: ballot box for questions about abortion, and the interview with a pre-established , including questions about pregnancy and zika.

BSTM: The study showed that black and brown-skinned women were more likely to avoid pregnancy if compared to white women, what also shows the outbreaks impact over ethnic groups considered vulnerable. To what do you assign these data? Why?

Dr. Debora Diniz: Yes, because even in the Northeast there is a concentration of the outbreak in poor urban or rural areas, with fragile policies or inexistent basic sanitation, which favors the vector. These ethnic groups inhabit these regions and are unable to move away from the epidemic, unlike the elites. This is another inequality element of this public health emergency.

BSTM: According to the results, over half the women who plan to have a baby have avoided pregnancy due to Zika virus. How do you perceive this fact? Do you understand the research evidences the need for enhancements in public reproductive health? Which and why?

Dr. Debora Diniz: What the data shows is that Brazil must urgently reevaluate its reproductive health policies to ensure better access to information and contraceptive methods. As shown by the high proportion of women who avoided pregnancy because of the zika virus, the Brazilian government should place reproductive health issues at the center of its response to the epidemic, including the revision of the persistent abortion criminalization.

BSTM: Still according to the survey, one of the points that called most attention of scientists was the amount of women who reported avoiding pregnancy in the Northeast (66%) Do you believe this result is a consequence of the region suffering most with the outbreak?

Dr. Debora Diniz: Without a doubt. This reveals the epidemics concentration and its unequal effects over northeastern women.…