It is reasonable for women to worry about shingles while they are pregnant because an infection caused by Varicella-zoster virus carries certain risks for the baby. People suffering from shingles are treated with antiviral medications. Some of these drugs are also administered in pregnant women suffering from shingles. Still, even if pregnant women are treated with antiviral medication there is a chance for their babies to develop the infection within five years if they have been exposed to chickenpox 21 to 5 days before the birth.
Shingles during Pregnancy
There are many infections which can be easily transmitted from a mother to her baby. The infective agents are transferred via the placenta from mother's blood to baby's blood. There is also a chance of contact transmission of disease during delivery (when a baby travels through the vaginal canal). Regardless the path of transmission the infection can be dangerous and cause serious damage to the baby. Some infections are even fatal.
Both, shingles and chickenpox are illnesses caused by the same virus, Varicella-zoster virus. If there is a Varicella-zoster infection during pregnancy there is risk for a baby. The very risk depends on the stage of the pregnancy (trimester).
The most serious complications occur if a woman develops chickenpox infection during pregnancy. This is not the case with shingles. If a woman suffers from shingles during pregnancy a chance for baby to get hurt is less likely.
Treatment for Pregnant Women suffering from Shingles
The most commonly used antiviral medications in people suffering from shingles are acyclovir, Valacyclovir and famcyclovir. These three drugs belong to pregnancy Category B medicines (they are considered safe). Medications from Category B have not been studied in pregnant women but they have been proven to be harmless for the fetus in case of pregnant animals.
Apart from antiviral medications pregnant women suffering from shingles are administered specific pain killers which can successfully alleviate the pain caused by skin lesions. Once again the doctor will opt for a safe pain killer which carries no side effects on the fetus.
What are Potential Complications of Chickenpox during Pregnancy?
Unlike shingles chicken pox infection caries more risks to a baby. If a mother contracts chickenpox infection 21 to 5 days before the delivery the baby can develop chickenpox at birth or a few days after the birth. A small percentage of babies exposed to a virus within previously mentioned period of time may develop infection in the first five years of their lives. This can be easily explained by an insufficient development of the immune system. If a child develops full-blown infection he/ she is administered zoster immune globin. This is a preparation that contains antibodies to the virus and is obtained from the people who have recently had chickenpox or shingles.