Should We Delay Pregnancy for Zika

A Brazilian health official has suggested that women delay pregnancy because the Zika virus may cause birth defects, particularly Microcephaly. But delaying pregnancy also produces birth defects, so this decision needs to be carefully considered.

Birth defects increase greatly as the mother and father get older. Encouraging women to put off pregnancy could cause massive increases in birth defects. This should be weighed against any dangers that the Zika virus might pose.

Secondly, if there is a major decrease in births in Brazil or other South American countries for six months to a couple of years, the medical system for handling maternity may atrophy. Then when women rush to catch up there will be an extraordinary number of babies being born. The medical system may not be able to handle this and once again the problems could be far worse than Zika.

Finally, if there is a temporary baby bust, followed by a baby boom, that could cause difficulties for the educational system. The size of the first grade class will plummet one year, and perhaps explode the next. The same problem will follow year by year as the bust followed by the boom works its way through the system.

Experts, including medical experts, doctors, often look narrowly at problems. They frequently do not consider the larger implications of their grand plans to solve a problem. But someone needs to look at these factors before we manufacture a baby bust quickly followed by a baby boom.

It might be mentioned that both Brazil and Columbia, the two countries most commonly mentioned in the discussion of Zika virus, are currently not producing enough babies to reproduce themselves. Latin America as a whole is somewhere close to long run zero population growth.

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