September 23, 2011
Most pregnant women already have immunity to the chickenpox virus. If you have had the virus there is no need for concern, because once you have had it you are immune for life.
If you have not had the virus, chickenpox can be a risk for you and your baby if you contract it while you are pregnant. There is a vaccine available for chickenpox, but it is recommended that pregnant women should not be vaccinated for chickenpox.
If you are not immune to chickenpox and you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, you may receive an injection of anti-chickenpox antibodies (varicella zoster immune globulin, VZIG). VZIG is safe for you and your baby. When administered within 96 hours of exposure, it helps prevent chickenpox or can lessen its severity if you do contract it.
Chickenpox infection in a baby is rare, however the virus is capable of crossing the placenta. If the fetus is exposed to chickenpox virus in the first few months of pregnancy, it can cause fetal abnormality about 20 percent of the time.
During the second half of pregnancy, chickenpox does not seem to harm the fetus.
If the baby contracts chickenpox shortly before birth or during childbirth, the newborn is at risk of developing a serious form of the disease.
The chickenpox virus is contagious 1 or 2 days before the rash appears. If you do not have immunity and someone you are with has developed chickenpox, contact your health care provider immediately to receive ZVIG.