What If I Develop Chickenpox Just Before Giving Birth?
Chickenpox, Pediatric Shingles, and Pregnancy
You may be wondering what will happen if you develop chickenpox just before giving birth. Will your baby develop chickenpox or have an increased risk of developing shingles early in childhood?
If you get chickenpox 21 to 5 days before giving birth, your newborn may have chickenpox at birth or develop it within a few days. But the time lapse between the start of your illness and the birth of the baby generally allows your immune system to react and produce antibodies to fight the virus.
These antibodies (which are special proteins) can be transmitted to your unborn child and thus help fight the infection. Still, a small percentage of the babies exposed to chickenpox in the 21 to 5 days before birth develop pediatric shingles in the first five years of life. This is because a newborn's immune system isn't fully functional and is unable to suppress the virus.
But what if you contract chickenpox right as you are giving birth? In that case, your immune system has not had a chance to mobilize its forces. And although some of your antibodies will be transmitted to the newborn via the placenta, your baby will have little ability to fight off the attack because its immune system is immature.
If your baby develops full-blown chickenpox as a result, it can be fatal. To lessen the severity of the chickenpox, he or she will be given zoster immune globulin -- a preparation made from the antibody-rich blood of adults who have recently recovered from chickenpox or shingles.
Final Thoughts on Shingles and PregnancyContracting shingles during pregnancy is fairly rare, and most experts agree that shingles is less likely than chickenpox to harm your baby. But as a precaution, if you develop any symptoms of shingles (such as a rash or burning skin pain) while you are pregnant, be sure to contact your healthcare provider immediately.