Chicken Pox during Pregnancy

The Varicella virus causes chicken pox and is a highly contagious disease which causes an itching rash. If this infection infects a pregnant woman then it could cause risk to both the mother and the infant. The risk basically depends on the timing at which the infection has occurred.

Normally women are immunized against this infection, or have a history of previous chicken pox infection have the antibodies which fight infection already in them. These antibodies are transferred to the infant through the placenta and therefore they do not face the risk of complications for themselves or their infant.

However, if one is not immune to the disease and is pregnant, they could get injected with ‘immune globulin’ a product that carries antibodies of chicken pox virus. If this is taken within 96hours after infection, it reduces the severity of the infection. There are some oral drugs which could also reduce the severity and the risk of complications to both the mother and the child.

Complications Caused to Infants in Early stage of Pregnancy

There are far less chances of complications if the infection is caused in the early stages of pregnancy. If the infection is caused during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy then the infant carries a slight chance of developing the abnormality called congenital varicella syndrome. The infant suffering from such a disease will have a head that is smaller than normal, eye problems, low birth weight, small limbs and mental retardation.

Complications Caused to Infants in Late Stage of Pregnancy

In the case where a woman is infected 4-5 days before delivery or 2 days after delivery, there is a risk that the infant born may suffer from “disseminated varicella infection.” It is a condition, where the infant is infected by the disease before the maternal antibodies are transferred to his body. This kind of infection can be fatal too.

Measures to Cure Chicken Pox in Pregnant Women

  • Anti viral medication called acyclovir (Zovirax) could be given to pregnant women who are suffering from chicken pox, as it is safe during the period of pregnancy.
  • Those women who are not immune to varicella but are exposed to it, can be treated with varicella-zoster immunoglobulin (VZIG), a substance that triggers a response against the varicella virus.

Measures to Cure Chicken Pox in Infants

  • Those infants whose mothers have developed varicella 5 days before delivery or 2 days after delivery should receive VZIG after birth.
  • Those infants who capture the disease during the first two weeks of life should be treated with IV acyclovir.

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