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Complications of Chickenpox During Pregnancy


Complications of Chickenpox During Pregnancy

Pregnant women who have chickenpox are at risk of complications. The type of complications depend on when the infection developed during pregnancy.

  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox during the first half of pregnancy may go into labor early (premature labor) or have a miscarriage.
  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox in the last part of pregnancy are more likely to develop varicella pneumonia. Even a healthy pregnant woman is at risk of dying if she develops varicella pneumonia.
  • Up to 2 out of 100 fetuses whose mothers have chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy will also get chickenpox.1 This is called congenital varicella and can cause:
    • Birth defects. Birth defects can include one limb (usually a leg) smaller than the other, scars on the limbs, or eye problems such as cloudy lenses.
    • Low birth weight (weigh less than expected at birth).
    • Seizures. The baby can have seizures after birth.
    • Intellectual disability.
    • Shingles. Fetuses who have chickenpox will not have chickenpox again. But they can still have shingles, even as babies or young children.
    • Death. Up to 7 out of 100 of the fetuses who get congenital varicella die.2
  • Babies born within a few days of their mothers' chickenpox infection have a risk of severe chickenpox infection. These babies are at greater risk of complications from chickenpox.

References

Citations

  1. LaRussa PS, Marin M (2011). Varicella-zoster virus infections. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., chap. 250, pp. 1104–1110. Philadelphia: Saunders.

  2. Gardella C, Brown ZA (2007). Managing varicella zoster infection in pregnancy. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 74(4): 290–296.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last RevisedOctober 13, 2011

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