When you become pregnant, it is necessary to stay healthy and to protect yourself from every illness out there. Chicken pox is a highly contagious viral infection that can be very serious especially during pregnancy. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect you and your baby from the risk of chicken pox.
Chicken pox is a viral infection, also called as varicella , accompanied by a rash, which appears as small reddish spots or pimples. A fever and body aches usually occur before the rash appears. In most cases chicken pox is contracted during childhood, although there are some instances when an adult contracts chicken pox. Studies show that about 95% of women in their childbearing years are immune to chicken pox.
Who is at risk for getting chicken pox during pregnancy?
If you have been infected with chicken pox once before, then most likely you are immune to chicken pox.
If you have NOT been infected with chicken pox so far and if you are pregnant, you may be at risk for contracting the virus. Therefore it is necessary to avoid contact with anyone who has chicken pox.
If you are not sure whether you have ever been infected with chicken pox, consult a doctor and perform a blood test to determine if you have the chicken pox antibodies. If the test detects antibodies, you are immune to chicken pox.
How will the baby be affected?
It depends on how far you are in your pregnancy stage.
If chicken pox occurs in the first trimester, there are 0.5-1% chance for birth defects.
If chicken pox occurs within the 13th and 20th week, the risk of birth defects is 2 percent.
There is a 20-25% chance for your baby to develop chicken pox, if chicken pox occurs within 5 days or less of delivery or 1-2 days after delivery. This condition is also known as congenital varicella.
If chicken pox occurs within 6-12 days before delivery, there is a chance that the baby can get chicken pox. In this case your baby may receive some of your newly made chicken pox antibodies, which cause the congenital varicella to be mild.
Possible birth defects may include poor growth, small head size, scars, eye problems, delayed development, and/or mental retardation.
How to protect my baby from chicken pox?
If you had chicken pox before, your body should may have antibodies that protect you from contracting chicken pox and therefore, your baby will be protected.
If you have not had chicken pox before and are pregnant, it is recommended to receive the shot of zoster immune globulin (ZIG) when you come in contact with someone who has chicken pox. ZIG must be given within 4 days of first exposure and is given only when you do not have the antibodies against chicken pox.
It is advised to take a chicken pox vaccine if you do not have the chicken pox antibodies and if not pregnant.
Can someone get chicken pox twice?
It is rare to have chicken pox twice, but those with immune problems are at an elevated risk of a second infection.