Chickenpox And Pregnancy: What You Need To Know

Chickenpox and pregnancy might seem like a worrying combination, but the best thing you can do is find out what you need to know. We’ll try to answer most of your questions, but if you need reassurance, contact medical professionals.


chickenpox and pregnancy


What Is Chickenpox?


Chickenpox is an infectious illness. It’s part of the herpes family of illnesses. Most people experience chickenpox in childhood, where it’s usually a mild illness that causes an itchy rash. If you’ve had it once, you’re extremely unlikely to have it a second time. Around 90% of pregnant women are immune to chickenpox as they’ve had it during their childhoods.


What Are Symptoms of Chickenpox?


Chickenpox symptoms take between 10 days and three weeks to show. Some people notice feeling unwell and feverish first. This is followed by itchy, watery blisters. The blisters will burst, and crust over, then start to heal. This can take up to two weeks.


Is There A Chickenpox Vaccination?


There is a chickenpox vaccine, but as far as chickenpox and pregnancy goes, it’s not available for pregnant women. It’s recommended that women who get the vaccine use birth control for around 30 days afterwards.


Chickenpox And Pregnancy


If you’re pregnant, and you’ve had chickenpox previously, then you’re immune, so there’s no cause for concern. If you’re not sure, or if you’ve never had chickenpox, you should schedule an appointment with your GP. They will run a blood test that will check to see if you have any of the antibodies for chickenpox. They may give you an injection of VZIG, or varicella zoster immune globin. VZIG is a blood product that will temporarily strengthen your immune system. It may not prevent you from contracting chickenpox, but it can make the illness milder and shorter. You can receive the vaccine up to 10 days after you were in contact with an infected person. You can have a second dose 3 weeks later if you come into contact with chickenpox again.


Chickenpox And Pregnancy: Effects On The Baby


Realistically, there is very little chance of chickenpox having any effect on your pregnancy. Only 0.3% of pregnant women contract chickenpox, and even fewer have any complications. The risks of chickenpox depend on what trimester you are at in your pregnancy.


Up to 28 weeks pregnant: There is no evidence that chickenpox at this stage will increase the risk of miscarriage. You will be referred to a foetal specialist for more in-depth scans as there is a very small risk of the chickenpox interfering with development.


28 to 36 weeks pregnant: If chickenpox passes from mother to baby at this stage, it won’t cause any symptoms for the baby. It may become active after the birth.


After 36 weeks pregnant: The baby may be born with chickenpox and can develop the rash. Your healthcare professionals will administer treatment and give you advice. Your baby will be monitored for 28 days after you contracted chickenpox, in the case of severe chickepox.


After The Birth


If you contracted chickenpox during your pregnancy, your little one will probably have a blood test at around 7 months old to check for antibodies. Even if you have chickenpox, or had chickenpox during your pregnancy, it is still safe to breastfeed.


Chickenpox Treatment During Pregnancy


If you contract chickenpox during your pregnancy, there may be treatment options available. In some cases, doctors recommend an antiviral treatment called aciclovir. It can help reduce the fever and lessen the symptoms.


What Chickenpox Means For Mum?


Chickenpox in pregnancy is not common, so therefore any serious side-effects or complications are also quite rare. However, you may be at greater risk if you:


  • Are a smoker
  • Suffer from lung conditions such as bronchitis, or emphysema
  • Are on steroid medications


If you are at greater risk of complications, your GP will refer you to your local hospital. You should call your GP, or your local hospital, if you develop chickenpox and any of the following symptoms:


  • Chest or breathing problems
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • A severe rash or a rash that is bleeding