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What is the Emotional Impact of Having a Baby with Zika?


Abdulla Al-Khan, MD, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, discusses the prognosis for babies born with Zika-linked microcephaly.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
“The prognosis for all babies born with microcephaly is dismal. [It is] absolutely dismal. Whether that is microcephaly as a sequela of Zika, or as a consequence of various genetic syndromes or chromosomal abnormalities. Irrespectively, all babies born with microcephaly don’t do well; they will have developed mental delays, cerebral palsy, visual problems, motor abnormalities, feeding problems, and the lifespan of all babies born with microcephaly is relatively short.
I think it’s catastrophic, and I think that’s exactly what really impacted me the most. When we delivered the Zika baby, as great as I felt as a doctor, that we made a [correct] diagnosis, I think the emotional aspect of it, of me seeing this child with the severe problem, was difficult.
It’s difficult, and I think it’s very tough for a mom just to carry a baby for nine months, knowing that this is going to be the joy of her life, but now she has a child that’s going to be handicapped. This may have a lot of implications in the long run. The psychologic stress that the mother is going to go through, the social stress that the mother is going to go through, the marital stress, [and] the financial stress. This is [an impact] that becomes a domino effect [for] all mothers who deliver babies with anomalies, handicapped [infants], [infants with] cerebral palsy, [or with] microcephaly, and the list just goes on.
I’m sure every country is going to pay attention to the psychosocial aspect of any disorder which is going to impact their region or society. I’m sure in Brazil they have a lot of support that the government is providing to [infants] born [with such complications], especially nowadays with Zika [infections resulting in] microcephalic infants.”
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