Chicken pox is a common childhood viral infection
afflicting most of us, and unfortunately the most
contagious of the lot. Another name for it is varicella
zoster, and it belongs to the herpes virus family.
If you are pregnant, try to keep away from possible
sources because chicken pox in pregnancy can bring
harm to your unborn child, especially if you are not
immune to it. The good news is once you have had chicken
pox you cannot become infected with it again.
Chicken Pox Facts
• Being highly contagious chicken pox can spread
by droplets when the infected person coughs, sneezes
or even talks, and by direct contact with the blisters
• There is no treatment for this viral infection.
• Chicken pox spreads quickly through playgroups
and daycare centers so if you are working closely
with children and are pregnant take note.
• Infection is at its peak from 48 hours before
the rash appears and up to the point when all the
spots crust over.
• Shingles also known as herpes zoster can occur
in persons who have had chicken pox before. Unlike
chicken pox the skin rash is concentrated in a small
area of the body and poses no risk to the developing
baby if it should develop during pregnancy.
• If you have had chicken pox before than your
body has developed antibodies to it and therefore
you and your baby do not stand a chance of becoming
affected if you come into contact with someone who
• Women who didn’t have chicken pox during childhood
and neither received vaccination for it may develop
primary chicken pox in pregnancy
• If you are not able to confirm with your parents
get a blood test done to check on your immunity. Vaccination
before conception and waiting for at least 3 months
before becoming pregnant is necessary.
If you develop Chicken
Pox while Pregnant
• Avoid contact with other pregnant women or
newborns until the rashes have crusted over.
• Avoid primary secondary infection by keeping
the rash areas clean
• Inform your doctor if you develop respiratory
problems or any other symptoms
• Sometimes medications can be prescribed if
the treatment is started within 24 hours of the rash
developing. The medication will help reduce the duration
of fever and other discomforts
• Sometimes hospital treatment becomes necessary
if the pregnant lady develops secondary infection
• Pregnant women given the VZIG shot within
96 hours of exposure to varicella can help prevent
maternal complications like pneumonia.
Chicken Pox and the Unborn
• Before 20 weeks the risk of developing varicella
is the lowest although the damage is more pronounced
from weeks 8-20, including eye defects, limb and neurological
difficulties, learning disability amongst others.
• Between weeks 20-36 there are no adverse fetal
effects but the likelihood of shingles in the first
few years of life is high
• After week 36 up to 50% of unborn babies are
infected if the mother is infected and half of that
number will go on to develop chicken pox at birth
• Chicken pox is most severe in the baby if
the mother comes down with it nearing delivery or
within days after birth. If a newborn develops chicken
pox it can be fatal. IV drugs to speed up rash healing,
immune recovery and transference of antibodies from
mother to baby will be immediately executed. The very
ill baby will need to be cared for in the special
care baby unit. (Fortunately chicken pox in adults
• Being a serious disease for the newborn, the
infection can be contained if baby is given an injection
containing chicken pox antibodies (varicella-zoster
immune globulin or VZIG) right after birth