Chickenpox and Pregnancy

Chickenpox and Pregnancy


Chickenpox During Pregnancy

Varicella or chickenpox occurs, as a rule, in childhood. Usually, children do not have any complications after the disease goes away and the course of the disease itself goes quite fast. However, adults may also have this disease. The older an adult is, the more severe will the disease be. It’s rare for a pregnant woman to get ill with chickenpox due to the fact that the majority of women already had it in childhood.

The causative agent of the disease is varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that’s also called human herpesvirus type 3 (HHV-3). It is a droplet infection. At the same time, if the fluid contained in blisters (that are one of the symptoms of the disease) is also contagious.  A person becomes contagious before the blisters occur and is still contagious for several days after the recovery. Therefore, a woman may become ill with the disease and not even know about it. Due to the fact that the immune system of a woman becomes significantly weaker, it’s quite easy for the infection to develop.

Symptoms of the Disease

The course of chickenpox in case of pregnant women goes as usual. Incubation period lasts from 10 to 20 days. The first symptoms may appear only once this period is over.

The first symptoms are:

  • headache;
  • your general health condition becomes worse;
  • loss of appetite;
  • body temperature is significantly increased.

Then, 2-3 days later, there appears a common symptom of this disease – blisters full of clear fluid. At first, there appear several blisters that become more and more in number as days go by. On average, new blisters continue to appear for 2-7 days.

Since the way the immune system of a woman functions is a bit different when she’s pregnant, chickenpox in case of future mothers can either be moderate or severe. The symptoms of the disease are more intense. The disease is accompanied by increased body temperature and severe intoxication. Therefore, there may be a strong headache. There is rash all over the body. Atypical forms of the disease occur quite often.

In 30% of cases, pregnant women have complication such as varicella pneumonia. The risk of having this acute respiratory failure depends on your gestational term. The higher the term of pregnancy is, the higher is the risk.

Consequences of Chickenpox in Case You’re Pregnant

Can chickenpox affect pregnancy? A pregnant woman pays special attention to her general health condition. This is not surprising. The health and development of a future baby depends on the general health condition of his/her mother. Viral diseases are considered to be the most dangerous during this period due to the fact that they can be very harmful for your future baby. Chickenpox is one of these diseases. According to statistics, pregnant women don’t often have chickenpox.

Chickenpox During the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy

Any kind of infection during the first trimester of pregnancy is well-known to be dangerous. Chickenpox is not an exception. This disease is very dangerous during the first 12 weeks since it is the period when the basis for organs and tissues of a future baby is formed. Due to the fact that the placenta hasn’t yet been formed, there is nothing that can keep a baby safe from the infection. However, it’s rare for a baby to get infected with the disease. At the same time, if there has developed prenatal chickenpox, there almost always occur complications. The fetus may die, there is a risk of a spontaneous miscarriage and the organs and tissues that were affected by the disease may be seriously deformed. Besides, the central nervous system as well as organs of vision may be affected. The hands and legs of the fetus may be underdeveloped as a result of the disease. As a rule, you are able to find out about any of these consequences of prenatal chickenpox only after you undergo an ultrasound examination in the second trimester. If it turns out that there are serious, life-threatening deformities, the pregnancy will be terminated.

Getting infected with chickenpox during the first trimester of pregnancy doesn’t mean that there is a higher risk of missed miscarriage.

Chickenpox During the 2nd Trimester of Pregnancy

If a woman got ill with chickenpox at this term of pregnancy, there is nothing to worry about. By the beginning of the second trimester, the placenta is already completely formed and it can keep the baby safe. It’s almost impossible for your baby to get infected with the disease even if there is a case of severe chickenpox.

Chickenpox During the 3rd Trimester of Pregnancy

If the disease occurs at the late term of pregnancy it’s very dangerous under the condition that a woman got ill with it after the 36th week. The less time left until labour, the more dangerous is the disease.

The thing here is that the organism of a pregnant woman doesn’t manage to make the baby immune to it. Therefore, your baby may get infected with it before the labour begins, while he/she will be passing through the birth canal or during the first days of his/her life. Then there will be the case of inborn chickenpox that’s very severe. These are not only the skin and the mucous membranes that will be affected, but also the inner organs and the central nervous system.

Is chickenpox dangerous for pregnant women? This is the question that many women are excited to get an answer for. It’s not the disease that is dangerous, but the consequences of it. The worst scenario is predicted if a woman got ill with the disease at the end of the third trimester which means several days before labour. The organism of a pregnant woman can’t produce enough antibodies that can nip the disease in its bud thus keeping her baby safe.

If the symptoms of the disease occur 4 days before labour, on average, prenatal chickenpox occurs in 10-20% of all cases. From 20 to 30% of babies with prenatal chickenpox die. If the rash appeared more than 5 days before labour, there is still a risk of the baby getting infected. In this case, however, the disease will be light and there may be absolutely no symptoms.

Anyway, the baby will be prescribed passive immunization. Even though it decreases the risk of the disease development only for 40%, it’s guaranteed to prevent the death of your baby.

So here is the answer you wanted to get so much: the level of the disease’s danger for a mother and her future baby depends on how severe the disease is and the term of pregnancy when a woman gets infected.

Treatment for Chickenpox During Pregnancy

If there was a contact with an infected person and there appeared some rash, the first thing you need to do is to immediately visit your gynecologist that has been keeping the course of your pregnancy under control. When prescribing treatment a doctor takes into account the term of pregnancy. If the course of the disease goes as it usually does and there are no such complications as consecutive infections, no special treatment is prescribed. You need to apply brilliant green on the blisters. One of the symptoms of chickenpox is an intense itching. You can ease it with the help of certain drugs. One of them is calamine lotion that’s very good at easing intense itching.

Even though it may be very hard, you need to avoid scratching the blisters. If you do it, there will be small open sores through which skin infections may get inside your organism. As a result, you may have a consecutive infection. That’s why it’s so important to take time and apply the lotion on absolutely all the blisters.

If a pregnant woman gets infected with chickenpox after the 20th week, she will be prescribed immunoglobulin therapy. The same therapy will be prescribed if the disease developed when there is no much time left until labour.

Once all the possible risks are considered, your doctor may prescribe you Aciclovir. Apart from fighting with viruses, it significantly decreases the intensity of the symptoms. Consequently, the treatment helps better and you recover sooner. Keep in mind that Aciclovir will only help you recover faster if you start taking it within 24 hours after the first blisters appeared.

In case you get infected with chickenpox after the 20th week of pregnancy, it’s forbidden to take Aciclovir. There is a high risk of harming the baby that’s not yet born.

If the symptoms of chickenpox appear several days before labour is said to begin, doctors take measures in order to delay the birth of the baby. This way, there is a much lower risk of infecting him/her. Once the baby is born, he/she is prescribed a particular type of immunoglobulin that contains antibodies to chickenpox.

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