It is very rare for women to catch chickenpox during pregnancy. Only around 0.3% of women will become infected with chickenpox while they are pregnant. Most people contract chickenpox in childhood; though, with the advent of the chicken pox vaccine, the number of cases has decreased dramatically. Around 90% of pregnant women are immune to chickenpox.
I’ve had chickenpox before
If you have previously suffered from chickenpox, you may be immune to the disease for the rest of your life. However, the virus does remain in your body and has the potential to reactivate. It is rare to have a second case of chickenpox, though it does happen occasionally.
I haven’t had chickenpox before
If you haven’t previously had chickenpox, then you need to be careful throughout the pregnancy. If you come into contact with chickenpox or shingles, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately.
You are most at risk of contracting chickenpox if:
- You have face-to-face contact with an infected person.
- You are in the same room as an infected person for at least 15 minutes.
If you have been in contact with an infected person, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately. Do not wait to develop symptoms. It can take up to three weeks to develop symptoms of chickenpox, so you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as contact occurs.
You can catch chickenpox from a person infected with shingles. You should avoid coming into contact with the shingles virus if you have not previously had chickenpox.
If you don’t know whether you have had chickenpox before, you should contact your healthcare provider. They may choose to test your blood for immunity to the virus.
Will chickenpox harm my baby?
Chickenpox during pregnancy rarely causes complications for mother or baby. However in some cases, chickenpox can lead to serious consequences. Around 10% of pregnant women infected with chickenpox will go on to develop pneumonia.
The seriousness of contracting chickenpox during pregnancy depends on your stage of pregnancy:
- Before week 28, there is no evidence of increased risk of miscarriage. However, up to 2% of babies may experience side effects because of the infection.
- Between week 28 and 36 your baby is very unlikely to be affected, although he may develop shingles in early childhood.
- After week 36, your baby has a 50% chance of being infected.
- If you develop chickenpox within seven days of giving birth, your baby may develop severe chickenpox.
You should contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- a bleeding rash
- a severe rash
- breathing problems
- vaginal bleeding
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are worried about chickenpox during pregnancy.
Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.