Chickenpox is a viral illness most commonly seen in children. Usually chickenpox is a benign illness, but in a pregnant woman it can cause serious complications for mother and baby.
Luckily, more than 90 percent of pregnant women are immune to chickenpox because they've already had it. If you know you've had the illness, you don't need to be concerned about it during pregnancy, even if you're exposed to an infected person. Among women who haven't had chickenpox, though, about 1 in 2,000 get it while pregnant.
Chickenpox is spread by respiratory droplets in the air and also by direct contact with the rash of an infected individual. Those with shingles, a disease caused by the same virus, can also spread chickenpox.
Characterized by an itchy rash with blisters and a fever, the symptoms of chickenpox typically occur 14 to 16 days after exposure.
Chickenpox is highly contagious. If a susceptible pregnant woman is exposed to an infected household member, her risk of getting chickenpox is about 90 percent (the risk is lower if she was exposed to an infected person outside her home). Chickenpox can be transmitted by an infected person one to two days before a rash develops, and that person will remain contagious until the rash stops spreading and is covered by dry scabs (generally five days after its onset).