chickenpox and pregnancy

The combo 'chickenpox and pregnancy' isn't desirable for any future mummy. Another pregnancy complication!

Under normal conditions, chickenpox is a viral disease, caused by the Varicella zoster virus, that already brings us bad news; unpleasant symptoms, such as blister-rash outbreak, itchiness, fever and tiredness. When it strikes you during pregnancy, chickenpox can cause extra complications for both you and the baby-to-be, though they are usually rare. Actually, looking at statistics, it's unlikely to get chickenpox in pregnancy, since only 3 out of 1.000 women in the UK are estimated to suffer from such a disease while expecting a child.

However, it's important to be aware of the potential threat of contracting chickenpox throughout these nine months, and that's why we encourage you to keep reading the following lines.

Chickenpox and pregnancy: What can happen to the baby? 

To what extent are chickenpox and pregnancy dangerous together? Regarding your baby's health, it depends on the stage you are at. If you develop it between 13 and 20 weeks pregnant, your baby may be at a small risk of getting what's known as Congenital Varicella Syndrome (CVS), a disorder that entails a group of birth defects such as scars, an underdeveloped brain and extremities, as well as vision problems, among others.

In case you catch chickenpox from 21 to 36 weeks pregnant, the virus is very unlikely to cause any trouble to your little one, though it will remain in the baby's body and may become active in the first years of his life. Things get more complicated if you get infected after the 36th week, because then the baby may be born with neonatal varicella, which can be life-threatening for him. 

And what about you? Is chickenpox dangerous in pregnancy? Chickenpox and pregnancy don't get along well, but in theory you should be fine. It's also true that, if you happen to catch it while waiting for your baby's arrival, you may be at a higher risk for further complications, like pneumonia, bleeding rash, breathing difficulties, vomiting and drowsiness.

Chickenpox and pregnancy: How contagious is it in this special time?

Again, it depends. Chickenpox is highly contagious and if you aren't immune to it, that's to say, if you haven't had it or haven't been vaccinated yet, it's very likely for you to get it when being exposed to the virus. That's why if you don't know for sure whether you are immune or not, you should talk to your GP before getting pregnant and ask for a blood test, which can determine if you are still vulnerable or not.

Chickenpox and pregnancy: What are the possible complications?

Complications may arise if you catch chickenpox around the time of birth, especially if your munchkin is born within seven days of your rash first developing or up to seven days after birth. In such a case, he may suffer from severe and potentially mortal chickenpox, so he'll need to be treated with an immune globulin product, along with antiviral drugs in order to keep the illness effects under control.

Those expectant mums who are more than 20 weeks pregnant, smoke, have lung conditions, like bronchitis, and have taken steroids recently are at a higher risk of complications. As mentioned above, these include pneumonia, but also the inflammation of the brain and liver. Such conditions, which are very rarely fatal, need to be taken care of with antivirals.

Chickenpox and pregnancy: Can I get the vaccine during pregnancy?

No, you can't. Doctors recommend waiting until three months after having the second shot before even looking for a baby. If you are already pregnant and you haven't been vaccinated against chickenpox, you'll have to do it right after giving birth, so you can get the second dose in the postpartum appointment. Not only will that prevent you from getting it, in case your little one develops it within the next few months, but it will also keep you from a possible infection if you plan on having another baby.

If you aren't immune and suspect that you could have chickenpox while being pregnant, you should seek medical help right away. You may be given an injection of an immune globulin that can reduce the severity of the disease when administered within ten days of exposure. At the same time, you can expect to be treated with antiviral medication.

Chickenpox and pregnancy: How to reduce the risks of contagion 

In order to reduce the risks of contagion, you should avoid having contact with any person who may have chickenpox. And pregnancy is a good excuse to do so without regrets! You should also keep yourself from hanging out with people who've been in touch with somebody with such an illness for the last three weeks. Keep in mind that people who have chickenpox are the most contagious before the rash outbreak occurs, and by then the common symptoms are flu-like (so they can be confusing!).

In addition, you will also have to stay away from anybody who has an active herpes zoster, which is caused by the same virus that provokes chickenpox and, as a result, can reactivate the latter. Don't forget that if you already have a little kid, he or she should be vaccinated from the age of 12 months on, because after all, most people get chickenpox from another member of their families.

Prevention plays an essential role when it comes to avoiding the 'chickenpox and pregnancy combination'. The best thing you can do is make sure that you are immune to this disease before even trying to conceive, which will rule out future problems. If you are not, get the proper vaccine, so you don't have to worry about catching chickenpox in pregnancy. However, remember that the complications listed in this post aren't very likely, so don't think of the worst-case scenario if you are diagnosed with chickenpox. Let professionals handle the problem and, hopefully, things will turn out well.