Chickenpox in pregnancy
Chickenpox is a common childhood disease and 90% of the population in the UK are immune because they have
had it. For this reason, although contact with chickenpox is common in pregnancy, especially in women
with young children, it is estimated that only three pregnant women in every 1000 catch chickenpox.
And even fewer babies catch it.
These usually depend at what point in pregnancy you catch it…
up to 28 weeks of pregnancy
you are not at an increased risk of early miscarriage
1-2% of babies can be affected with potential damage to
eyes, legs, arms, brain or bladder as such you may be referred to a fetal medicine specialist
for ultrasound scans and discussion about possible tests and risks.
between 28 and 36 weeks of pregnancy
The chickenpox virus will stay in your baby’s body but will not cause any symptoms.
However the virus may become active again causing shingles in the first few years of the child’s life.
after 36 weeks and to birth
Your baby may become infected and he could be born with chickenpox.
If your baby is born within 7 days of your chickenpox rash appearing, he may get chickenpox, which will
up to 7 days after birth
Your baby may get chickenpox and will be treated – he will be monitored for 28 days after you became infected.
You catch chickenpox from someone who has it – even being face to face with someone for 5 minutes is enough.
The symptoms can take between 10-21 days to appear.
This is the incubation time from when you catch it to when the symptoms first show.
The first signs of chickenpox are fever and a general feeling of unwell.
This is followed by the appearance of watery blisters, which are itchy.
After a few days the blisters will burst, crust over and then heal. This may take up to 2 weeks.
Chickenpox in pregnancy
Even though it is a common childhood illness, it can be serious for pregnant women.
Serious complications include pneumonia, hepatitis and encephalitis however you should go to the
hospital to be checked over if you experience:
chest and breathing problems
headache, drowsiness, vomiting or feeling sick
a rash that is bleeding
a severe rash
Once we have had chickenpox we are immune so we can never catch it again as we produce antibodies to fight it.
However the virus does stay in our body and it can become active again as shingles.
According to RCOG: If you get shingles while you are pregnant, it is usually mild and there is no
risk for you or your baby.
If you are concerned about anything, seek some medical support