Chickenpox and Pregnancy

Chickenpox is categorized in the list of viral infections that may be self-limiting and benign. It makes the skin itchy and red that is followed by appearance of blister eruption on skin (that are filled with fluid). The causative agent is varicella virus; some moms may encounter chickenpox and pregnancy meantime.

If a pregnant woman acquire chickenpox during pregnancy then the chances of complications increases that may affect baby and the mother both. The intensity of infection and likelihood of severe complications in mother and her baby is determined by the time at which the infection was acquired (that is early pregnancy or in last trimester, etc). There are a lot of things you can do to treat and prevent this problem.

Chances of Having Chickenpox During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a big issue for every mom. However, a standard single chickenpox vaccine dose has the capacity to prevent the virus in up to 85-90% cases. From different researches, it is also concluded that receiving second dose of chicken pox gives more protection against the varicella virus. Due to this, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommend everyone to get two chickenpox vaccines to achieve high immunity.

As most of the adults are immune with the virus therefore there are fewer chances for a pregnant mother to get infected with chicken pox (about 1-7 in 10,000 pregnant do get infected). If a woman is not sure about her immunity then consult with the doctor, who will suggest a simple blood test by which immunity will be confirmed.

What to Do If You Are Not Immune Against Chickenpox?

Here are some measures to take if you are not immune against chickenpox.



Know the best time to get vaccinated

If a woman is looking forward to conceiving, then she should wait a month after receiving chickenpox vaccine. If a woman conceive before receiving the vaccination, it is ideally recommended to take the first dose right away and take the second dose of vaccine during 4 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. It secure the mother from getting infection during second pregnancy as well. It is also safe to receive vaccine if you are breastfeeding.

Avoid contact with certain people

Avoid physical contact with any person who is infected with chickenpox, person who is not immune and any person who has been in physical contact with someone with active infection in the past 3 weeks.

Avoid contact with people who have shingles

Avoid contacting people who have a history of shingles. The pregnant mommy cannot catch shingles but there are chances that she may develop chickenpox from the person with shingles. (When the chickenpox virus is reactivated in a person who had chickenpox previously, they develops shingles)

Vaccination of household members

Additionally, there are also chances that a pregnant woman may get infected from household member that is why CDC recommends every healthy child of 12 months and older with other household members to get themselves vaccinated. This is necessary and particularly important if they are exposed recently to a person with chickenpox disease. As soon as they receive vaccine, the risk of contracting or transmitting the infection decreases significantly.

What Will Happen If You Get Chickenpox During Pregnancy?

When chichkenpox and pregnancy comes along, what will happen and what can you do? The following can help you figure out these questions.

What Will Happen?

After being exposed to the virus, it takes maximum 21 days to develop the infection; however, in some people symptoms may appear as early as 14 to 16 days. At the beginning an infected person feels like she is having a flu which is then followed by itchy rash. Further on those rashes begin to turn into small red bumps that later form blisters. These bumps grow larger and in the end, dry out and disappear.

The most common sites where the lesions may appear first are face, abdomen or chest and then new bumps begin to appear gradually on other body parts. A person becomes contagious as soon as the first bump erupted over skin until all of them are crusted over.

What to Do

  • If a pregnant woman feels like she is experiencing symptoms similar to chickenpox then immediately call the healthcare provider. Avoid going to the provider’s office without an appointment as you can put other pregnant woman (sitting in a crowded waiting room) in risk of having the disease. Take an appointment so that they will arrange particular place for you.
  • If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with chickenpox then her doctor will suggest antiviral drug namely acyclovir to her. If she further develops pneumonia signs such as discomfort while breathing, fever with fast breathing, or cough then it is vital to call the health care provider immediately as those symptoms shows that the condition is getting worse.
  • If a pregnant woman is experiencing severe symptoms like chest pain or difficulty in breathing then contact health care provider right away. They will check her condition, will monitor her by admitting in hospital and will treat her with IV acyclovir.

What Are the Dangers of Having Chickenpox During Pregnancy?

When chickenpox and pregnancy comes together, serious risks to your pregnancy are posed!

1. For the Baby

The effect of disease on baby is calculated by the duration of pregnancy. According to OTIS (Organization for Teratology Information Service):

  • If a pregnant woman gets infected with chickenpox in her first trimester then the risk of developing birth defects is 0.5 -1%.
  • If a pregnant woman gets infected with chickenpox during 13th to 20th week then the risk of developing birth defects is 2%.
  • If a pregnant woman gets infected with chickenpox within 5 or less days before delivery or 1 to 2 days after delivery then there are 20 to 25% chances that the infant will develop congenital varicella (chickenpox in newborn).
  • If a pregnant woman gets infected with chickenpox within 6-12 days before delivery then there are chances that infant will still develop varicella virus. In this situation the baby will also receive newly created antibodies of chickenpox from mother which will help in controlling the virus and decreasing the intensity of infection.
  • Some birth defects include eye problem, scars, small size of head, poor growth, mental retardation or delay in development of baby can result from this condition.

2. For the Mother

Pregnant women who get infected with chicken pox virus during the third trimester are at high risk of having varicella pneumonia. It is a life threatening infection that may impair breathing badly.

Watch a video for more: I am pregnant - should I worry about chickenpox and what are the complications in different stages of pregnancy?

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