Chickenpox During Pregnancy

Pregnancy and Baby Dangers

Serious complications from chickenpox are uncommon in children, but 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women develop pneumonia, with 40 percent of these women ultimately dying. And babies of women infected in the first half of pregnancy face a small risk (2 percent or less) of congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects that can include scars, muscle and bone abnormalities, paralyzed limbs, a small head, blindness, seizures, and even mental retardation.

Another risk of chickenpox during pregnancy is that the infant may contract it. If the mother develops her chickenpox rash between 6 and 21 days before delivery, her baby's case is likely to be mild and require no treatment. But if the mother's rash develops later -- from five days before to two days after delivery -- and no steps are taken to shield her fetus, the newborn has a 25 to 50 percent chance of getting chickenpox between five and 10 days after birth. It might be severe: Up to 30 percent of infected babies die if not treated. Fortunately, the severity of dangerous newborn infections can be lessened and even prevented if the baby is treated right after birth with an injection of antibodies called VZIG (varicella-zoster immune globulin). If the baby develops symptoms in spite of treatment, new antiviral drugs can help reduce the infection's potency.

If you haven't had chickenpox or aren't sure if you've had the disease, take steps to protect yourself and your baby.

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