• Dr Peter Chew

Chickenpox and pregnancy

I am 6 weeks pregnant. This is my first pregnancy. 3 days ago, I came into direct contact with my colleague who was diagnosed with chickenpox today. I do not have any past history of chicken pox. What are my chances of catching the disease? What should I do?

Chicken pox is a highly contagious viral infection. If you have not had it before and have had direct contact with an infected person, it is very likely that you may get it. The symptoms usually show up 14 to 16 days after exposure although this may vary between 10 to 21 days. You may have mild flu-like symptoms, followed by an itchy rash. The rash starts out as little red bumps, first on your face, chest, or abdomen, and gradually spread to other parts of your body. The rashes will form blisters which get larger and eventually dry outwith scabs. The moment you are exposed to the person with chicken pox, call your obstetrician right away. He or she will make special arrangements to see you so that you will not infect other pregnant women in the clinic. You may be treated with medicine that has chickenpox antibodies. It’s important to get treatment within 4 days after your exposure. This will help prevent the infection or make it less serious. If you start to have symptoms, you will be given an antiviral medicine call acyclovir that will kill the chickenpox virus. Studies have shown that acyclovir is safe during pregnancy. If you start to get serious complications such pneumonia, you will be hospitalized and given a higher dosage of acyclovir intravenously.

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