Friday, 8 February 2013

Chickenpox and Pregnancy

This morning as my 6yr old was getting dressed I noticed a few spots on her body and as was examining her a few more appeared including one on her eyelid, one on her groin and a couple on her private parts.

So it looks like the dreaded pox has hit the Really Rachel household.

Now you wouldn't think this was a problem, but it is. My 6yr old is the first of my 4 children to catch it (which isn't surprising really because since Christmas at least 10 of her classmates have come down with it) but not only hasn't any of my children had it, neither have I or my husband.

Now with chickenpox the older you are when you catch it, the worse it is but you have to factor in that I'm pregnant as well and I have type 2 diabetes.

Now whilst complications for the pregnant woman are rare, but they can include pneumonia (with a greater risk of catching it if you smoke) inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and liver (hepatitis) and in extremely rare cases can be fatal. 

However it is the baby who is the most at risk of complications caused by chickenpox and the complications vary by how many weeks pregnant you are when you catch it. 

If you catch chickenpox before you are 28 weeks pregnant, although there is no evidence that it increases your risk of miscarriage, there is a small risk that the baby can develop foetal varicella syndrome (FVS). FVS can damage the baby's skin, eyes, legs, arms, brain, bladder or bowel. 

If you catch chickenpox between 28 and 36 weeks the virus stays in the baby's body but doesn't cause any symptoms. However it could become active in the first few years of the baby's life, causing shingles.

If you catch chickenpox after 36 weeks then the baby may be infected and could be born with chickenpox. 

If you develop chickenpox around the time of the birth and the baby is born within seven days of your rash developing then there is a risk of your baby developing severe chickenpox which can be fatal. 

*** Information from NHS Choices ***

So as soon as my daughter came out in spots this morning I phoned our local GP's surgery for advice and was advised to come in straight away for a blood test to test my immunity to chickenpox. If it comes back I am immune then great there's no risk to me or the baby, but if it comes back that I'm not immune then I will have to have an injection of chickenpox antibodies called Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin (VZIG)

The VZIG injection helps to boost your immune system for a short time but won't necessarily stop chickenpox developing. It can usually be given up to 10 days after contact with chickenpox, as long as you haven't developed a rash or blisters. The injection doesn't work once chickenpox has developed and it is not known whether the VZIG injection helps reduce the risk of a FVS in the unborn baby. 
*** Information from NHS Choices ***

Sadly it turned out I wasn't immune and I had to have the antibody injection. For more information see Pregnancy and Chickenpox Antibodies


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