In pregnant women, chickenpox can be a danger to the
fetus or newborn baby.
Chickenpox is caused by an infection with the
varicella zoster virus. The chickenpox infection
provides lifelong protection against a new round of
chickenpox, but later in life you can get shingles when
the virus is reactivated. Most have chickenpox as a
child, but a few percent of the adult population have
not had the disease and are therefore susceptible to it.
Adults who get chickenpox have a greater risk of serious
chickenpox than children.
Often the person who wants to become pregnant or is
pregnant if she has had chickenpox before. If the
pregnant woman does not know if she has had chickenpox,
a blood test can show if she is susceptible to the
infection. The blood test is important because about 80%
of those who think they have not had chickenpox have
been infected, and therefore have protection against the
disease. In some pregnant women who are susceptible to
the infection and who have been exposed to chickenpox
(for example, a child who gets chickenpox some day after
the visit) antiviral treatment is given.
Chickenpox and pregnancy
A pregnant woman who gets chickenpox can get
complications such as skin infections or pneumonia.
However, the risk is not greater than in other adults
who get chickenpox. In the event of a serious infection,
premature contractions can sometimes occur. Shingles in
the pregnant woman are usually harmless.
Instead, it is the fetus or newborn who is most at
risk of getting chickenpox:
- Chickenpox during the first half of pregnancy
(mainly between week 13 and week 20) can cause
congenital varicella syndrome in the baby in
about 1-2% of pregnancies. It can manifest as low
birth weight, skin damage, eye diseases,
malformations of the arms and legs and brain damage.
The risk of the baby dying after birth is great.
- If the pregnant woman gets chickenpox at the
time of the baby's birth, there is a risk of very
severe chickenpox infection in the baby. The risk is
greatest if the pregnant woman gets chickenpox five
days before the baby's birth to two days after the
baby's birth. Before and after that period, the risk
is significantly less. A woman who gets chickenpox
after week 35 should be treated with antiviral
therapy. Newborns at risk of serious illness are
treated with antibodies to the varicella zoster
Chickenpox during pregnancy should always be assessed
by specialists in infectious diseases and gynecologists.
Vaccine and pregnancy
In women who have not had chickenpox who are or want
to become pregnant, blood tests will show that there are
no antibodies to the varicella zoster virus. To reduce
the risk of getting chickenpox during pregnancy, you can
vaccinate against chickenpox. Two doses of vaccine are
recommended to obtain complete protection against the
disease. It cannot be done during pregnancy or four
weeks before a pregnancy. Sometimes a test is taken
after a pregnancy which shows that the woman has not had
chickenpox before. Vaccination can then be offered as
protection for a next pregnancy.
Sometimes children of pregnant women who have not had
chickenpox before can be vaccinated to reduce the risk
of having chickenpox. Children can also be vaccinated
within 3 days of being exposed to chickenpox.
Warning signs of physical activity during pregnancy
It is nice and useful, both for the mother and the
child, to exercise during pregnancy - but many are still
worried about doing something wrong. Here you can read
about the symptoms that may be signs that you should
stop the exercise session and ask for advice from a
doctor or midwife.
A common advice for pregnant women is to feel after
yourself if everything feels normal. During pregnancy,
new changes and symptoms are constantly emerging and it
can be difficult to know what is normal and what is not.
In this article we address warning signs that apply
to exercise during pregnancy. If you experience any of
the symptoms listed below, stop the exercise session and
consult a doctor or women's clinic for advice before
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should
stop exercising and consult a doctor:
- If you feel that you have chest pain.
- If you find that your heartbeat becomes
irregular or abnormally fast.
- If you are unusually short of breath before
training or become unusually short of breath during
- If you get vaginal bleeding.
- If it leaks fluid from the abdomen.
- If you have abdominal pain, pelvic pain or
persistent abdominal contractions.
- If you faint or feel dizzy, nauseous or close to
- If you get muscle cramps.
- If you experience an uncomfortable feeling in
- If you have severe headaches.
- If the fetal movement pattern changes /
decreases sharply after a workout.
- If you experience sudden swelling around your
ankles, your face or if you get leg pain.
- If you find it difficult to walk.
- If you feel cold or nauseous.
- If you experience unusual pains.
- Avoid overheating - exercising in very hot or
humid climates means an increased risk of
In case of suspected amniotic fluid leakage or
vaginal bleeding, always consult a doctor or midwife -
regardless of whether you are exercising or not.