Pregnancy and the Chicken Pox

The chicken pox is never fun. Prior to the vaccine, most of us got the chicken pox as kids. It was uncomfortable, but rarely dangerous. The virus is always more serious for adults, but particularly pregnant women. Fortunately, about 90 percent of women are immune to the chicken pox. For these women, there is very little risk of catching the virus during pregnancy.

However, if a woman has made it to child bearing age without being exposed to the virus, this can be a cause for concern. Approximately 1 in every 2000 pregnant women will catch the chicken pox during her pregnancy. For these women, catching the virus during pregnancy can have serious consequences.

The effect of chicken pox on the baby depends on when the mother catches the virus. It is most dangerous in the first trimester. If the exposure occurs in the first half of the pregnancy, the baby has a small risk of being born with congenital varicella syndrome. The syndrome causes low birth weight, physical defects, abnormalities in the brain and deformities of the limbs and digits. This is extremely rare and happens in only about one percent of cases.

If the mother is exposed at the end of pregnancy, there is a chance the baby will be born with the chicken pox. The baby can catch it just before the birth or during the birth. The baby will need treatment, since death can result if the virus is left untreated. There is an immune globulin injection that can be given to the mother prior to the birth or to the baby after it is born. Other antiviral drugs may be used as well, if indicated.

There isn’t much you can do if you are not immune to the chicken pox and are already pregnant. The vaccine is not considered safe for pregnant women. The best thing you can do is to avoid exposure to the virus during your pregnancy. The good news is that while there can be very serious consequences, these are very rare.

Related Articles:

Fifth Disease and Pregnancy

Staying Healthy in the Cold and Flu Season

Should I Get a Flu Shot?

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About Pattie Hughes

Pattie Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four young children. She and her husband have been married since 1992. Pattie holds a degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. Just before her third child was born, the family relocated to Pennsylvania to be near family. She stopped teaching and began writing. This gives her the opportunity to work from home and be with her children. She enjoys spending time with her family, doing crafts, playing outside at the park or just hanging out together.