Chickenpox during pregnancy is not common, but it can be dangerous for you and your baby. In this article, you will learn what to look out for and how high the risk of infection is for your baby.
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What Is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is widespread worldwide and is one of the most common infectious diseases. Almost everyone can remember the red, itchy pustules in childhood.
This viral disease – triggered by the highly contagious varicella-zoster virus – is transmitted by droplet or smear infection. Although most children or adolescents are affected by this disease, adults can also become infected.
In most cases, the disease is harmless, but it can pose a serious risk if the immune system is weakened. Pregnancy can also complicate the course of the disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chickenpox In Pregnancy?
Chickenpox in pregnancy is usually manifested by fever or malaise in its early stages. After this stage, you will notice itchy blisters spreading all over your body and face.
These blisters are filled with a liquid, which can be scratched open during the illness or because of the strong itching. No sooner has a blister faded than a new one appears. Do not panic! This is completely normal, especially in the first few days. Do you wonder how long this acute phase lasts? Unfortunately, there is no general answer to this question. Basically, the course of the disease and the duration of the infection are determined by your immune system.
Adults tend to have a stronger rash than children. After some time, however, the blisters will dry up and scab over. These blisters should not be scratched open, however, as this can lead to scarring.
Caution: Not only can the rash itself be more severe in adults, but it can also lead to additional complications. In some cases, chickenpox has even led to pneumonia.
Chickenpox In Pregnancy – How High Is The Risk Of Infection?
As you already know, chickenpox is a disease that can be transmitted by droplet or smear infections. But what exactly does that mean?
A droplet infection can be caused by coughing or sneezing. But the liquid contents of chickenpox vesicles are also highly infectious. So touching this liquid can also lead to infection. This type of infection is hidden behind smear infections.
You are particularly susceptible to chickenpox during pregnancy. For this reason, you should avoid skin contact with infected persons. However, this does not apply to every pregnant woman.
You are only at particular risk if you have not yet contracted chickenpox as a child or if you are not protected by vaccination.
How Chickenpox Is Treated During Pregnancy
Basically, there are no medications that can be used to treat chickenpox. Your doctor will only prescribe ointments or oral preparations to relieve the itching.
However, if you have chickenpox during pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe a drug called immunoglobulin. The term immunoglobulin refers to a blood product that contains antibodies that can be used to fight chickenpox. Caution: Even if this treatment sounds good at first, it is also associated with some risks. In addition, this type of treatment is very expensive and only offers protection for you. Unfortunately, your baby is not affected.
Here is what you can remember: If you get chickenpox during pregnancy, it is not necessarily bad. However, it can become serious if the infection occurs within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy or shortly before birth.
How Can I Protect Myself Against Chickenpox?
The best protection against chickenpox during pregnancy is a vaccination. However, you should only be vaccinated if you did not have chickenpox in childhood or as a teenager. Otherwise, vaccination is unnecessary. Tip: The costs for the vaccination are also covered by your health insurance. Are you planning to become pregnant in the near future? Then you should take care of vaccination in time.
Doctors do not vaccinate during pregnancy because the vaccine can be transferred to your baby. If you are not sure whether you have already had chickenpox, you can ask your doctor for a blood test. Most health insurance companies also cover this test.
If vaccination is not an option for you, chickenpox can be treated during pregnancy with preparations and ointments. However, these only relieve the itching and not the actual disease. In order to prevent this from happening, you should strictly avoid skin contact with people who have the disease.
If you suffer from an unusually severe course of the disease, which is even associated with risks, your doctor will prescribe additional virus-inhibiting medication.
Is There A Risk For My Baby?
If you contract chickenpox during pregnancy, in some cases your baby may also suffer damage. Doctors call this fetal varicella syndrome.
The following symptoms may occur:
- Skin lesions (ulcers or scars).
- Eye damage.
- Deformities of the skeleton.
- Diseases and malformations of the nervous system.
- Atrophy of the brain tissue (brain atrophy).
In the worst case, your baby can die in the womb as a result of the disease.
What Happens After Birth?
Newborns suffer from a neonatal chickenpox infection when their mother has been infected with the virus about two to five days before birth. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the course of the disease is particularly severe due to the weakened immune system.
About 30% of babies are not able to survive this disease.
The Most Important Facts At A Glance
Although chickenpox is considered a typical childhood disease, it can also affect adults. In this case, the disease can be more severe than in childhood and also leads to complications more often. These complications can affect not only you but also your baby. In the worst case, you can contract pneumonia. In particularly severe cases, your baby may be born with deformities or even die as a result of the disease.
To avoid this, you should be examined by your doctor as early as possible and, if necessary, vaccinated. Because of the risk of transferring the vaccines to your baby, no doctor will vaccinate you during pregnancy.