Zika Freeze: Fertility specialist sees Zika-related uptick

Aug 12, 2016

The number of locally-acquired Zika cases keeps rising in South Florida, and that means hard conversations between doctors and patients who want to get pregnant.

About four, five months ago, Dr. Armando Hernandez-Rey noticed his fertility clinic in Coral Gables was getting an unusual jump in business.

“I started getting an initial wave of patients requesting egg freezing, sperm freezing, or just going thru in vitro to freeze embryos, who were in Brazil, who were in Bolivia, who were in Ecuador,” Hernandez-Rey said.

Normally, Hernandez-Rey says he sees 20 to 25 new patients a week. These days, he’s seeing 40.

The patients—many of whom are now locals—are worried about getting pregnant while the Zika virus spreads.

Zika has been linked to birth defects and brain damage in infants whose mothers contract the virus during pregnancy.

Which, Hernandez-Rey says, has added an extra burden to couples who have been struggling to conceive.

“There’s a sense of calm that comes over the couple once they have a positive pregnancy test. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t have a miscarriage or anything else,” Hernandez-Rey said. “But now even with the positive pregnancy test now they’ve got this whole other issue to worry about that’s quite significant and could represent dire consequences for their unborn child.”

He says a lot of patients are waiting until winter to start in vitro fertilization, in hopes of getting through the first trimester of pregnancy with a lower risk of mosquito bites.