Chickenpox in pregnancy

By Dr. Anukriti Singh|3 - 4 mins read| June 03, 2024

What is chickenpox?

Chicken pox is a highly infectious disease which is caused by the Varicella Zoater virus. It is highly contagious and very common in children. Most people have had either an episode of chickenpox infection or are immune by the time they are an adult. Chicken pox is characterized by a very itchy red rash along with fever and presence of scarring after resolution of rash.

What are the signs and symptoms of chickenpox?

If you have chicken pox, you will usually experience flu like symptoms along with the presence of rash.

  • You may have a rash which is red and itchy. It can then turn into blisters which burst and heal with scaring.
  • You may experience headache.
  • You may have general fatigue.
  • You may experience fever along with the rash.

Can chickenpox be transmitted to the child during delivery?

If you have active disease during delivery or were infected by chickenpox upto 4 weeks before delivery, there is a high chance that it may be transmitted to your child. The risk of your child contracting chicken pox during delivery is about 1 in 2.

Your child may develop severe disease if you are infected immediately the week before or after delivery and the doctor may recommend treatment with antibodies and anti-virals.

Can chickenpox be transmitted by breast milk?

Contrary to the popular belief, breast milk does not contain the varicella virus which is responsible for causing chickenpox. So breast feeding cannot spread chicken pox to the baby due to breast milk. This being said, it is important to maintain proper precautions to prevent spread as it is a highly infectious disease which spreads by close contact and through droplets. Vesicles which develop on the skin of the breast should also be covered to minimise the risk of transmission.

Will chickenpox cause problems in the newborn baby?

When a baby is born to a mother infected with chickenpox during pregnancy, there is a chance of development of birth defects. There is an approximate chance of 1 in 50 babies being affected if the mother was infected with chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The baby can develop congenital varicella syndrome which is characterized by _

  • Presence of scars on birth
  • The baby can develop defects of muscle and bone
  • The child may have malformation of limbs
  • Sometimes, there can be paralysis of limbs
  • The baby may have microcephaly or a small head size
  • Eyes may be affected leading to blindness
  • There can be presence of seizures
  • There may be intellectual disability or developmental delays

How to protect yourself against chickenpox?

Vaccination is the best method to protect yourself against chicken pox. An FDA approved vaccine is available which is given in two doses 4 weeks apart. If you have never been vaccinated and are planning on getting pregnant, you should consider getting vaccinated but should consult your doctor for the minimum gap required between the last dosage of vaccine and conception. Not just you, but your partner should also consider getting vaccinated if you are planning a pregnancy as chicken pox is a disease which spreads by close contact.

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About The Author:

Dr. Anukriti Singh

Last Updated: Mon Jun 03 2024

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