If A Family Member Has Chickenpox, Should I Worry About Getting Chicken Pox While Pregnant?

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You May Already Be Immune

Most adults are immune to chicken pox, either from having the disease or by forming immunity from a mild exposure. Have you had chicken pox in the past? Then you and your baby are protected. This lessens the chances of developing chicken pox while pregnant. Not sure? Ask your doctor to check your immunity with a blood test. If this shows positive immunity, you are both protected. If it shows no immunity, an injection of a medicine called Varicella Immune Globulin (VZIG) may be given to prevent chicken pox. In order to be effective after the exposure to chicken pox while pregnant, the injection must be given within 72 hours of exposure.

Some Background on Chicken Pox…

Chicken pox (also known as varicella)  is a highly contagious viral infection. It is most evident as a rash that appears as small pimples filled with liquid. Along with the rash, you experience fever and body aches. This illness can be quite dangerous for your unborn baby. It all depends on how many months along you are at the time of infection. These birth defects include eye/vision problems, poor growth, small head size, mental retardation or delayed development.

  • If you are infected with chicken pox while pregnant during the first trimester, there is a  0.5-1% risk of birth defects
  • When the infection occurs around the 13th – 20th weeks, then the risk is elevated to 2%
  • During the time span of 5 days BEFORE delivery to 2 days AFTER delivery, there is a risk of 20% that your baby will develop the infection
  • 6-12 days BEFORE delivery, there is still a chance that your baby can get infected however it may be very mild