Chicken Pox or Shingles During Pregnancy
Find out if you might have chicken pox or shingles -- and if you do, how you can treat it safely during pregnancy.
What is varicella during pregnancy?
Varicella, aka chicken pox or shingles, is a highly contagious virus that can be especially serious for pregnant women.
What are the signs of varicella during pregnancy?
As with many viral infections, the first sign of varicella is a fever accompanied by body aches and a headache. Next up is the telltale rash, which usually appears as small, itchy reddish spots or pimples.
Are there any tests for varicella during pregnancy?
Your doctor will likely be able diagnose you on symptoms alone, but a blood test will definitively determine whether you’ve got the virus.
How common is varicella during pregnancy?
Not very. About 95 percent of women of childbearing age are immune to varicella. That’s because most adult women either contracted chicken pox in childhood or have been inoculated against it, so they carry the antibodies in their blood. (A blood test can help determine if you have the antibodies.)
How did I get varicella?
Not everyone is immune, so if you were around someone who had it and was contagious, that’s probably how you contracted the infection. The virus spreads through the air and by direct contact, so if a contagious person has a coughing or sneezing fit or gives you a big hug, he or she can pass the virus along. A person is contagious from one to two days before their rash appears until all the blisters have formed scabs, so whoever passed it to you probably didn’t know they had it yet.
How will varicella affect my baby?
If you contract the virus while you’re pregnant, you can develop a severe respiratory infection. If you get it in your first trimester there’s a very low (less than 1 percent) risk of birth defects, including low birth weight, scarring, and problems with arms, legs, brain and eyes. That risk doubles to about 2 percent if chicken pox occurs between your 13th and 20th weeks. And if you come down with the virus just before or after delivery, there’s a 20 to 25 percent chance your baby will also develop the disease, which carries a high mortality risk (as much as 30 percent -- scary!). See next page for treatment and prevention tips.