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Chickenpox and Pregnancy

Women who are dealing with chickenpox and pregnancy at the same time are at risk for complications. Their babies are at risk as well -- birth defects known as "congenital varicella syndrome" can occur in babies whose mothers had the illness in the first or second trimester. Although pregnant women cannot receive the regular chickenpox vaccine, a healthcare professional may recommend the VZIG vaccine.

An Overview of Pregnancy and Chickenpox

Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox are at risk of getting the illness during pregnancy. A small percentage of women who get chickenpox in the first or second trimester can have babies with birth defects known as "congenital varicella syndrome." In addition, the illness may be more severe in pregnant women than in others, putting the woman at risk of severe complications.

What Is Congenital Varicella Syndrome?

Women who develop chickenpox while pregnant can transmit the virus to their fetus. If this occurs during the first or second trimester, the fetus is at increased risk of developing congenital varicella syndrome, a condition that results in birth defects. Common birth defects seen with this condition include:
  • Limb abnormalities, including absence or underdevelopment
  • Abnormal brain development
  • Mental retardation
  • Scarring of the skin
  • Eye abnormalities.
The risk of congenital varicella syndrome is relatively low -- 0.4 percent for infections that occur from weeks 1 to 12 of pregnancy, and 2.0 percent for chickenpox infections that occur from weeks 13 to 20 of pregnancy.
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