It's normal to worry about every small infection, virus or even just someone sneezing near you when you're pregnant, and rightly so. Are you worried you've picked up chickenpox? We have the secrets behind the virus.
What Is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox, also known as Varicella, is a common childhood infection and has usually affected everyone by the time they reach mid-adulthood. It is very easy to catch the virus, just by being in the same room as someone who is suffering with the virus. You’re considered infectious from up to 2 days before the rash appear until they have crusted over (which is usually 5 days after they first appeared). It can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks from the last time you were exposed to the virus for the spots to appear.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Varicella?
It’s hard to know you’re carrying the virus until covered head to toe in the little spots but there are a few symptoms you can look out for (and then steer clear from that individual for the time being). Not everyone will experience all of the following symptoms but they are the most common ones.
You may experience a fever, like when you have the flu and this can be a key sign that your body is trying to fight something off. It could be nothing but it’s always best to get this checked out, especially while pregnant.
You may experience fatigue, which you’re probably thinking is part of your everyday life as a pregnant woman, but you will notice a significant difference in the level of tiredness you’re experiencing.
🍽️Loss of appetite:
You will most likely lose your usual appetite, if not completely, you will not wish to eat anything. It’s important to keep your energy up so it’s a good idea to eat anything your body is willing to try.
You will notice your daily pregnancy back pain won’t be the only pain you’ll be experiencing during this time. Your body will feel like you’ve taken part in a full body workout for the last week. You’re best allowing your body to east, don’t push yourself too far.
The headache may feel like you have been hit by a truck, rarely is a paracetamol and a little lie down a good remedy. It is usually like the flu and rest is the only thing that will provide any sort of relief.
You will eventually (can usually take 1-3 weeks from the last exposure to the virus) develop small, red pink-like dots on your face, chest and these will spread to cover the entirety of your body. Usually they will begin on your back/belly and spread from there, meaning your body is covered in the itchy rash.
Your spotty rash will eventually turn into fluid filled blisters which become itchy and often sore. These blisters will then weep, crust over and heal. You’re advised to avoid itching/scratching the blisters to prevent scars from forming.
What Complications Can It Have On You Whilst Pregnant?
Having the chickenpox infection can be fatal whilst pregnant but this is very rare with all of the extensive research in treatment that has been carried out over the years. The risks of developing the following from the virus are rare but are best to be aware of;
- Hepatitis: inflammation of the liver,
- Encephalitis: inflammation of the brain,
- Pneumonia: inflammation of the lungs.
Antiviral medication, such as Aciclovir within 24 hours of the rash appearing is helpful. This does not cure you from the virus but it can make the symptoms much easier to deal with and can help prevent any complications. You are usually only offered this if your pregnancy is past the 20 week mark. You should think about heading to the hospital and get some medical advice by speaking to your midwife or doctor, if you experience any of the following;
- A severe rash (excluding the normal chickenpox spots),
- Vaginal bleeding,
- Vomiting or Nausea,
- Spots/rash bleeding,
- Difficulty breathing.
What Complications Can It Have On Your Unborn Baby?
The effects of the virus on your unborn baby depends on how far along you are in pregnancy. Your unborn baby can be affected by the chickenpox infection but there is very little evidence to prove that any severe side effects can be found.
🔼Before 28 Weeks:
From the first weeks of pregnancy up until the 28th week your baby is at risk of developing Foetal Varicella Syndrome (FVS) which has been proven to damage the unborn baby’s eyes, skin, limbs, brain and organs.
↔️ Between 28 and 36 Weeks:
During this time, your baby is the safest, with only a small risk of developing shingles within the first few years of their life outside of the womb. If you’re exposed to chickenpox during 28 and 36 weeks your baby will have the infection in their system but experience no symptoms.
🔽After 36 Weeks:
When you reach 36 weeks your baby has the chance of being born with chickenpox. They may require treatment after birth but this is depending on the thoughts of the healthcare professional.
What Complications Can It Have On Your Newborn Baby?
If pregnant women have the virus within one week either side of delivering your baby, you baby may develop chickenpox of a severe level and will require treatment. Your gp will assess your newborn and will choose to treat them with the medicine which is most appropriate for them. This will be either;
- Aciclovir or,
- Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin (VZIG).