What if I’m pregnant and I haven’t had chickenpox?

When you’re pregnant, you should avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles if:

  • you know that you haven’t had chickenpox, or
  • you’re not sure whether you’ve had chickenpox.

If you do have close contact with chickenpox or shingles, get medical advice immediately. Your GP can check if you’re immune to the chickenpox virus. If you’re not, they may consider treatment with chickenpox antibodies.

Before recommending treatment, your GP will assess whether your risk of infection is significant. For example, they may ask how long the other person has had chickenpox or shingles, to assess whether they are still infectious.

What does ‘close contact’ mean?

Close contact means that, for example:

  • you’ve had face-to-face contact, such as a conversation, or
  • you’ve been in the same room for at least 15 minutes.

How can my GP check if I’m immune?

If you haven’t had chickenpox, or you’re not sure, your GP can do a blood test to check if you have antibodies to the chickenpox virus (herpes varicella-zoster virus or VZV). Meanwhile, you should avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles.
 
Most pregnant women are immune to the chickenpox virus. However, up to 1 in 10 pregnant women in the UK and Ireland don’t have antibodies to VZV.

What’s the treatment if I’m not immune?

Treatment can help to reduce the risk of rare complications that chickenpox can cause during pregnancy.

Your GP may recommend one or more injections of chickenpox antibodies called varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) if:

  • you’re pregnant and not immune to VZV, and
  • you’ve had close contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles.

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 ten days after contact with chickenpox, as long as you haven’t developed a rash. The injection has no benefit once chickenpox has developed. For more information, see How is chickenpox treated during pregnancy?

It’s not known whether the VZIG injection helps to reduce the risk of a rare condition called foetal varicella syndrome (FVS) affecting the unborn baby. For more information about FVS, see What are the risks of chickenpox during pregnancy?

Avoid contact with other pregnant women

If you have a VZIG injection, you may be infectious, so your GP may advise you to avoid contact with other pregnant women. Your GP will tell you how long you should do this for.

Source:

NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-07-23

Last Review Date 2009-10-21

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