The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended women diagnosed with the Zika virus should wait at last eight weeks before trying to conceive while men who had the disease should hold off for at least six months.

Both men and women who were possibly exposed to the virus should wait for at least eight weeks before attempting conception, the CDC's new guidelines said.

Zika has been linked to a spike in microcephaly, a rare birth defect, in Brazil.

The CDC's recommendations are intended to help couples before they become pregnant. Its previous guidelines on the Zika virus had focused those who already were pregnant.

The guidelines said women diagnosed with Zika should wait at least eight weeks after symptoms began before trying to 
conceive. Men should wait at least six months, health officials recommended.

Both men and women who were possibly exposed to the virus should wait for at least eight weeks before attempting conception, the guidelines said.

CDC officials noted that conversations about the risks of pregnancy are difficult and encouraged health providers to engage their patients.

"Some women and their partners residing in areas with active Zika virus transmission may decide to delay pregnancy," the CDC said in a news release.

Health officials noted the recommendations were based on limited data about Zika's persistence in blood and semen.

Brazil Zika CDC

Janine Santos holds her 3-month-old son Shayde Henrique who was born with microcephaly. Zika has not been proven to cause microcephaly in babies, but there is growing evidence that suggests a link. The condition is defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems. (Andre Penner/Associated Press)

Zika has not been proven to cause microcephaly in babies, but there is growing evidence that suggests a link. The 
condition is defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

Brazil said it has confirmed more than 900 cases of microcephaly and considers most of them to be related to Zika 
infections in the mothers. Brazil is investigating nearly 4,300 additional suspected cases of microcephaly.