New guidelines for pregnant women on chickenpox and shingles

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Published: Jan 23, 2015

Pregnant woman should stay as far away as possible from children who may have the virus, the Royal College of Obstrecians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) warns. In fact, these women need to realize the fact that Chickenpox during pregnancy becomes much more virulent than the normal mild infection that they cause among children.

RCOG also warns these women that the probability of complications arising is much higher, at about 3 in 1000 infected women are likely to have complications.

Chickenpox in Pregnancy

There is a very good way to avoid this situation during the prenatal session itself, by taking the appropriate precautions and vaccines for Chickenpox and Shingles.

Although, for those pregnant women who have had chicken pox at some time in their life, there is a lesser probability to get infected, they are still vulnerable to shingles, which is a re-activation of the chicken-pox virus.

So, the very first step is to inform the people during the antenatal care that you are going through, about your history of the disease along with other questions that they ask. Because, this is relatively a rare complication, many antenatal care facilities are not aware of the severity of this problem.

Prof Patricia Crowley, who works at the University College in Dublin, and is also one of the authors of ‘The Guideline’ says that it is very important to gauge symptoms as early as possible. In fact she suggests ‘as soon as the woman develops a mild rash, and has some of the other common symptoms like headache, fever etc. she needs to visit the physician. This is the key to remaining  untouched by complications. The other important thing to remember is to stay away from kids, who are looking infected from Chicken-Pox. Also the kids who have just recovered from chicken-pox may also carry the latent form of the virus, thus making the woman potentially vulnerable to the disease.’

But, Patricia also thinks that psychologically overloading pregnant women is also not a good idea. She says ‘pregnant women are given so much advice that they simply breakdown emotionally , thinking that they are very weak. This kind of negative thinking will harm both the mother and the child’. So, she appeals to all antenatal facilities, to take care of the women mentally, by counselling them from time to time.

Dr.Manish Gupta from RCOG says ’the main psychological problem for pregnant women who have been infected by chicken-pox, is getting worried at the thought of passing on the virus to the baby.’ He add that ‘ this is possible, but very rare because, there is a specific time period called the incubation period that needs to get completed for the virus to pass on. In most cases it is around seven days, between the development of disease in the mother and delivery of the baby. This is not very probable.  In fact Dr. Manish also allows women with Chickenpox to breast feed.