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Chickenpox- What pregnant women need to know

Chicken Pox

What is chicken pox?

Chicken pox is a very contagious illness caused by a virus called herpes zoster (also known as Varicella-Zoster virus). Over 90% of the population will have had chickenpox by the age of 15, making it a common childhood illness.

What are the symptoms?

Chickenpox begins with a feeling of being generally unwell. You tend to get a slight fever, runny nose and a skin rash. The sores associated with chickenpox begin as small lumps and then turn into blisters followed by scabs. These sores appear over a period of three to four days and may be in various stages of development during the illness.

How is chickenpox spread?

Chickenpox is spread by coughing early on in the illness and by direct contact with skin sores when these appear. Unfortunately people are infectious for one to two days before the rash appears and for about five days thereafter until all the blisters have formed crusts. The period between contact with an infectious person and manifesting the illness is around two weeks but this can be up to three weeks. The good news is people rarely get chickenpox twice.

What are the risks of chicken pox to me if I’m pregnant?

Contracting chickenpox during pregnancy can be a problem for both the mother and the baby. For mothers the greatest risk comes from contracting chickenpox in the last 10-12 weeks of pregnancy. Whilst the majority of chickenpox is contracted by children the risk of developing complications from the disease is far greater if you are an adult, especially if you are pregnant

What are the risks of chickenpox to the baby?

There are some risks to the baby if the mother contracts chickenpox whilst pregnant. Chickenpox in pregnancy can result in the baby having a type of chickenpox in the uterus, but this is usually mild. If the mother contracts chickenpox in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy the baby can occasionally develop abnormalities called ‘congenital varicella syndrome’. If you contract chicken pox within the last seven days of the pregnancy the baby is at increased risk of developing neonatal chickenpox. This is because the baby has not had the benefit of antibodies from the mother to protect it.

How can I prevent chickenpox?

Anyone with chickenpox should avoid others until at least 5 days after the onset of the rash (when all the blisters have crusted). Pregnant women should avoid contact with people with chickenpox. If you have been exposed to chicken pox and are pregnant, or have just had a baby then talk to your health professional as soon as possible after the exposure in order to minimise any risks.

A vaccine is now available for women planning a pregnancy who have not had chickenpox before. The vaccine involves two injections one to two months apart. You should not become pregnant until one month after you have received the second dose of the vaccine. If you are unsure as to whether you have had chickenpox you can get your midwife or doctor to do a blood test to see whether you are immune. Even adults with no history of chicken pox have a chance of being immune (due to a past mild infection).

What if I have been in contact with someone with chickenpox?

Call your midwife, doctor or hospital immediately if you have been in contact with someone with chickenpox. You can have a blood test to see if you are immune to chickenpox. If you have no history of chickenpox in the past then having an injection called Zoster immunoglobulin (ZIG) within 72 hours of exposure to the disease has been shown to prevent or reduce the severity of chickenpox.

What if I think I have chicken pox?

If you think you have chicken pox then ring the hospital talk to your health professional. DO NOT COME TO the hospital if you think you have chicken pox as you could infect other people. If you have children with chickenpox KEEP THEM AT HOME to prevent then infecting others. If you are about to have your baby (in the next seven or less days) or have chicken pox and a new baby under 28 days old then the baby should be given the ZIG injection. This is because the baby has not had the benefit of your antibodies that can protect it and this puts them at risk of neonatal chickenpox. Babies who have been given ZIG will be followed up closely.

Dr Hannah Dahlen is the Associate Professor of Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney. She has been a midwife for more than 20 years. Hannah is also an executive member of the Australian College of Midwives, NSW Branch. She has researched women's birth experiences at home and in hospital and published extensively in this area. Hannah's website is www.hannahdahlen.com.au


20 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Mar 25, 2013 7:52pm [ 1 ]

How long should a pregnant woman stay away from someone with Chickenpox? Is it longer than the 5 days implied in your article, given they are mildly immunosuppressed?

Feb 24, 2014 9:25pm [ 2 ]

Im 18weeks pregnant and recently being in a house with someone who had the chickenpox but his mum said they are dien down and hes back at school, but they still looked red? I dont think ive ever had them before so im kinda worried as to what till think?

Afia begum
Oct 11, 2014 12:06pm [ 3 ]

Hi there I am 9 week pregnant , I never he'd chicken pox, I work in nursery children have chicken pox recently , do I go to work ? How can I avoid that!! I am do much worried about that!!

chandrskanta paul
Feb 14, 2015 7:15am [ 4 ]

My wife infected by pox during period of five week pregnency. Now ,after ten week I.e fifteen week pregnent ,my wife has had tested usg ,report not gives any complication we are not sure have any bed effect by pox in our baby.Have any test for identyfy it.What is risk for baby and mother.

Please advice us .

Thanks and regurds Paul Chandraksnta.

Mar 3, 2015 2:25am [ 5 ]

Kindley sir my wife has got chkenpox recently and she is pregnant since 4 month sir we r very worried for this sir can u tell me how can treat this .thank you

huzefa hussain
Mar 7, 2015 6:57am [ 6 ]

my wife infected by pox during 8 week ... what shoud i do....

Mar 22, 2015 10:20am [ 7 ]

Hi sir, my wife pregnant test id positive. 7 days back she got chicken pox. Its exactly 3rd week after the 1st day of period.she took acyclovir 400mg 5 days. any problem in pregnany? Any complications to the child? Some people telling abnomalities will be happen to the child.pl give me a detailed anzanswer

Bhadra T
Mar 24, 2015 1:48pm [ 8 ]

I am 14 weeks pregnant women got chikenpox now am taking antiviral and antibiotic medicine for five days. Kindly advice if any problem for my baby..

Regards, Bhadra

Anushree Mohanty
Jun 25, 2015 8:27am [ 9 ]

Hi sir recently my husband suffering shingles after that I was also suffering from chicken pox.i want to know how many day should I wait for pregnancy plan.can u please suggest me.

Sep 19, 2015 5:42pm [ 10 ]

my wife infected by chicken pox during period of 2 month pregnancy . sir we r very worried for this sir can u tell me how can treat this .thank you

Oct 31, 2015 9:15am [ 11 ]

I'm currently 28 weeks pregnant and have chicken pox I had the vaccine when I was four but never broke out and my ob said this is because my body never built immunities to chicken pox its very painful and I still haven't gotten test result back and no antibiotics to help when should I go to the hospital if at all?

Dec 22, 2015 8:10pm [ 12 ]


I was infected with chicken pox while I was 5 weeks pregnant and can't wait until the 12th week in order to have ultra-sound check. Could you please advice how serious it can be and I'd appreciate feedback from other parents who were in the same situation. God help us and our babies.

Mar 9, 2016 2:06pm [ 13 ]

I sir my wife 13weeks pregnant she got chickenpox since yesterday blisters on the face we worried much is it any effect to baby or mother What should we have to take care?

Mar 10, 2016 6:46pm [ 14 ]


Apr 4, 2016 8:15pm [ 15 ]

my wife got chicken pox during 3 and 4 week can anyone reply wat happen for someone had at sametime @Paul Chandraksnta can u pls tell me whether ur baby born safe

Ash Barnw
May 15, 2016 4:34pm [ 16 ]

Lady is already pregnant of 2 months but have chicken pox last week. She is recovered from chicken pox but want to know what precautions and tests should be done to get a healthy child.

Note: Please also suggest if there is any risk with this unborn baby.

May 16, 2016 1:41pm [ 17 ]

hi i ma 26 week pregnant and my daughter got chicken pox as i was been around her for 4days and in touch with her.i went to my GP and she said we should wait for some days if case if something appears. i just want to make sure my other baby is safe from this. what should i do to make sure?

May 21, 2016 5:27am [ 18 ]

When to get pregnant following chicken pox? (Acyclovir given)

May 28, 2016 10:30pm [ 19 ]

i want to plan a baby but my wife just got chicken popx. its been 7 days now ,so when should we plan for a baby

Jul 16, 2016 9:23pm [ 20 ]

Hi sir,my wife is pregnant(9weeks). She is got chicken pox.have any harm to baby

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