- Pregnancy and Chickenpox
- Chickenpox Facts You Should Know During Pregnancy
- 1.It is Possible But Rare to Contract Chickenpox During Pregnancy
- 2.You Should Not Get the Chickenpox Vaccine When You Are Pregnant
- 3.In Case You Get Infected, Then You Potentially Put Your Baby at Risk
- 4.It is Riskier to Contract Chickenpox When Your Due Date Is Close Than at Any Other Stage
- 5.There Is a Shot for Preventing a Severe Case of Chickenpox in Newborns
- 6.Minimize Exposure to Reduce Your Chances of Catching Chickenpox
- 7.People with Poor Immune Systems Can Develop Chickenpox Twice
- 8.Watch Out for Shingles During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, mothers normally strive to stay healthy as much as they can. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it may be impossible to develop a couple of infections here and there. Because you cannot avoid associating with people, developing an illness may be inevitable.
Take chicken pox for example, it is a common source of concern for most people not only during pregnancy. It is a highly contagious infection caused by a virus and can be serious when not closely monitored.
Chickenpox is not only a threat to the well-being of expectant mothers but to children, both born and unborn. To an extent, it is a disease that is jinxed most of the time, even when there is no risk in association at all. Today’s post, therefore, contains what pregnant women should know about chickenpox.
Pregnancy and Chickenpox
Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is often indicated by the presence of reddish spots that look like pimples on the face of a victim. This rash-like appearance is proceeded by body aches and fever. The scabs’ symptoms fall off as the infection disappears.
Since the blisters are itchy, victims find themselves scratching them. In the process, this causes the blisters to pop hence releasing the virus. The viruses then spread to the surrounding from which an unaffected person contacts the disease.
Sneezing, coughing, and direct contact with the affected person are some of the transfer mechanisms of the disease. According to research, it is children who are most susceptible to a chickenpox infection.
Alternatively, an adult who isn’t immune or hasn’t had the disease before is also at a risk of contracting the disease. More good news also indicates that up to 95% of women at a childbearing age have immunity to chickenpox infection.
Although it is often considered to be more contagious for the first couple of days before the rash appears, it is more infectious after the appearance of the rash. Once the rash appears, a person runs the risk of infecting others for up to 6 days.
A chickenpox infection acquired during pregnancy presents possible complications for both the unborn child and the mother. The stage of the pregnancy at which the mother develops the infections plays a key role in the amount of risk associated with it.
Chickenpox Facts You Should Know During Pregnancy
1.It is Possible But Rare to Contract Chickenpox During Pregnancy
This statement is subject to certain conditions. If you have had chickenpox before (which is very likely), then you are probably immune to chickenpox for the rest of your life. Another instance of immunity occurs when you have received the chickenpox vaccine, which has been available in different countries for a long time now.
Just a single dose of the vaccine which is often recommended is enough to prevent the disease. This one dose had been previously shown to have an 80-85% prevention rate. However, subsequent research shows that a second dose gives patients an extra protection.
Most of the adults are immune to chickenpox with an infection rate of 1-5 in every 10,000 pregnancy cases. If you aren’t immune and haven’t received the vaccine, then you could get sick when pregnant. The disease can then affect your unborn child. A simple blood test determines whether you are immune or not.
2.You Should Not Get the Chickenpox Vaccine When You Are Pregnant
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), you shouldn’t attempt to have a chickenpox vaccine after trying to conceive. Rather, you need to wait for a one-month period to elapse after receiving a vaccine shot before attempting to have a baby.
Once you get pregnant, wait until delivery to be vaccinated. The second subsequent dosage should be arranged for after 4-8 weeks during the postpartum visits. This undertaking alleviates chickenpox worries during your subsequent pregnancies.
Also, it is absolutely safe to get the vaccine shot when you are breastfeeding. Just as a reminder, if you have a chickenpox infection, then don’t make an unannounced visit to your doctor when you are pregnant. You might inadvertently infect the pregnant mothers there. Alternatively, make arrangements for the doctor to visit you instead.
3.In Case You Get Infected, Then You Potentially Put Your Baby at Risk
Here is the deal; chickenpox is a childhood disease that rarely occurs in adults. When it does occur in an adult, then it could be dangerous. Chickenpox leads to pneumonia, which is a complication best avoided by pregnant women.
The concerns do not end there, contracting pneumonia in your first 2 trimesters is another source of concern. At these stages of your pregnancy, there exists a 2% chance of the unborn developing Congenital Varicella Syndrome (CVS).
The occurrence of this syndrome in a baby causes concerning side effects. These include scarring, abnormal small-sized head, malformed limbs, erratic vision, low weight at birth, and seizures. In the most extreme cases, it could lead to either a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
When in your third trimester, then the risks reduce considerably. This is due to the production of antibodies that boost your immune system. These are then passed to the unborn child to help fight infections. At this stage, your baby would be likely fine.
4.It is Riskier to Contract Chickenpox When Your Due Date Is Close Than at Any Other Stage
When closer to your due date (five days before and two days after birth), you are likely to pass down the virus, but not the immune-boosting antibodies. Your baby then becomes incapacitated in fighting off the disease.
The result is a condition called neonatal varicella which is found in up to 30% of babies born to mothers with chickenpox. Just like adults, the newborn will be prone to encephalitis, hepatitis, and pneumonia. These conditions are very risky for a newborn.
To avert these potential risks, it is best to seek for medical attention as soon as you come down with chickenpox. A detailed ultrasound will then be taken to examine the extent of the problem in the unborn child and corrective measures taken. At least one follow-up ultrasound will be then organized to check the progress. Alternatively, you could talk to a maternal-fetal specialist or a genetic counselor for the best course of action.
5.There Is a Shot for Preventing a Severe Case of Chickenpox in Newborns
Away from all of the negative energy, there is a shot for reducing the severity of chickenpox in your newborn. Newborns are given a Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin (VZIG). It is a vaccine of sorts that contains some blood with the chickenpox antibodies the baby didn’t receive from you.
This shot is given to newborns whose mothers develop chickenpox within the five-day period prior to delivery. Also, after 2 days after delivery and you develop a rash, then your newborn is eligible for a VZIG shot.
Every baby born with or without the virus has to receive the shot before reaching 28 weeks. In addition, preterm babies whose mothers are not immune have to get the shot after 28 weeks. A baby showing the signs of fever or rash gets an intravenous antiviral drug acyclovir.
6.Minimize Exposure to Reduce Your Chances of Catching Chickenpox
Chickenpox is a contagious disease to those who are not immune. If you are one of those, then you need to keep away from an infected person as you have a 90% probability of getting sick as well. Thus, if there is any family member with chickenpox, then it is imperative that you avoid interactions with them if you are not immune.
If interactions are impossible to avoid, then you will need to get a VariZIG shot to minimize the likelihood of suffering a severe case of chickenpox and putting your baby at risk. Preferably, get the shot 10 days after the interaction with the chickenpox victim. However, the sooner, the better. Unfortunately, this shot does not curb the infection of your unborn baby.
VariZIG protection lasts for a maximum of three weeks. If you get into contact with someone with chickenpox, then you will need another shot to keep you safe.
7.People with Poor Immune Systems Can Develop Chickenpox Twice
Although it very rare to contract chickenpox twice in your lifetime, it is not so strange to see people with weak immune systems being susceptible. There are also cases of a miss-diagnosis where people believe that they had chickenpox when they were children while it was a simple case of a rash.
For those who are unsure, visit your doctor or midwife straight away for the chickenpox antibodies test. Since chickenpox is less common in tropical countries, those who grew up in these countries need the test the most. You are more likely to not be immune to the disease.
8.Watch Out for Shingles During Pregnancy
Shingles is a case of chickenpox infection where the varicella virus that had stayed dormant becomes re-activated. It occurs especially in individuals with an immunosuppressed body system. Nonetheless, this condition is quite rare with about 2 babies out of 130 born with chickenpox developing shingles.
Starting the treatment for shingles as early as possible is the best method for reducing the severity and likelihood of transferring it to the unborn.
Chickenpox is a childhood disease that can affect adults who did not receive it when they were kids. When developed during a pregnancy, you have every reason to worry as it threatens the well-being of your fetus. Even you as the mother will be at a risk of varicella pneumonia.
The good news is that the condition is manageable when detected early enough. There are oral medications that can be taken to alleviate the disease and keep the unborn safe. When you suspect that you have chickenpox, visit your health care provider immediately for assistance.