Pregnancy and Chickenpox


In conversation with Dr Geeta Muliyil

Health experts from across the world say that the chances are very rare of pregnant women getting chickenpox. Mostly because many are immune to the condition, as they might have had the disease in the past, so immune, or got vaccination, so immune.
But, there are situations when one unknowingly happens to be near a person with chickenpox, while in pregnancy and one wonders if one will catch the infection.

When to consult the doctor

• If one feels that one may have chickenpox
• When one is not vaccinated against chickenpox, or having no past history of contacting chickenpox
• If one gets chickenpox soon after giving birth
• If the mother has conditions like bronchitis, emphysema or pneumonia, hepatitis, encephalitis
• If the mother is taking steroids

Is it harmful for the unborn baby, if mother gets chickenpox while in pregnancy?

If a carrying mother catches chickenpox in the first or second trimester, the baby could get congenital varicella syndrome. The risks are more if the carrying mother is infected between weeks 13 to 20. If the pregnant baby gets congenital varicella syndrome, it could lead to birth defects, neurological problems like intellectual disability and vision problems.

What are the risks of a newborn baby, if the mother is infected with chickenpox?

The riskiest time to get infected with chickenpox is when the mother is within 5 days to delivery and a couple of days or a week after delivery. In this situation, the newborn is exposed to the virus, and not in a condition to receive antibodies from the mother. In this condition, there’s a chance of the baby getting infected with neonatal varicella or new born chickenpox, which could lead to critical, even life-threatening conditions. There are vaccines to reduce the risks.
To know more about pregnancy and chickenpox, please talk to your doctor.