Shingles can occur in pregnant people. However, it is rare for the condition to cause dangerous complications or affect a fetus.
If a person has had chickenpox, the virus that caused it can reactivate in later life and cause shingles. The fluid in shingles blisters can also transmit the virus to people who are not immune to chickenpox.
Although shingles typically causes no harm during pregnancy, chickenpox can lead to complications. If a pregnant person is not immune to chickenpox, they will need to avoid contact with people with shingles.
This article looks at the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of shingles, and the outlook for people who develop shingles during pregnancy.
Shingles is a skin rash that can cause itching, pain, and fluid-filled blisters. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes shingles is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Once a person has chickenpox, VZV remains dormant in their body. It can sometimes become active again and cause shingles. In the United States, shingles may affect around
Experts are not sure what causes VZV to reactivate. However, the risk increases as a person ages. Being over
It can affect people who have not had chickenpox in the past and those who are not vaccinated against chickenpox. If these people come into contact with VZV, it can cause chickenpox. Later on, VZV may reactivate in the body and cause shingles.
VZV is not transmissible before the blisters appear or after they crust over. Covering a shingles rash reduces the risk of VZV passing to others.
VZV causes chickenpox, which means that contact with a person who has chickenpox can transmit the virus. This is more likely than contracting VZV from coming into contact with shingles.
According to March of Dimes, shingles during pregnancy rarely leads to complications in the fetus.
If a person has shingles symptoms while pregnant, they need to talk with a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.
If a person develops shingles just before or just after giving birth, they must take steps to protect their baby from coming into contact with the shingles rash. Covering the rash and frequent handwashing can help this.
Breastfeeding with shingles
It is important to talk with a healthcare professional about whether it is safe to breastfeed with shingles. A person must also contact a healthcare professional if they think their baby has come into contact with a shingles rash.
To diagnose shingles, a doctor will assess a person’s symptoms and check whether they have had chickenpox in the past. Shingles is
If a shingles rash appears similar to other conditions or a person has a weakened immune system, a doctor may take a blood test or swab a blister for laboratory testing. This can show whether a person has VZV or VZV antibodies.
A doctor can then determine whether a person has chickenpox or shingles, depending on their symptoms.
According to the
- a tingling or burning sensation on the skin, which may be the first symptom
- itchy or numb skin
- pain, which may be mild or intense
- chills and fever
- upset stomach
- a rash, which may appear 1–5 days after the initial tingling sensation
- fluid-filled blisters, which may form a few days after the rash and last for 7–10 days before crusting over
The scabs typically clear a few weeks after the blisters form a crust.
Shingles may last for 3–5 weeks.
Antiviral medications treat shingles. If a person is pregnant and has shingles, they must tell a healthcare professional that they are pregnant. This is so the healthcare professional knows to prescribe medication that is safe to take during pregnancy.
Antiviral medication is most effective when people take it as soon as possible after noticing a shingles rash.
A healthcare professional can also suggest safe and effective over-the-counter treatments for treating symptoms such as itching and pain.
However, if a person has had chickenpox in the past, VSV can reactivate and cause shingles.
People who are pregnant and not immune to chickenpox
If a person is not immune to chickenpox and wishes to become pregnant, they may choose to get the varicella vaccine before becoming pregnant to protect against chickenpox.
The varicella vaccine is unsuitable to receive during pregnancy, so people must wait
If a person is pregnant and develops a rash, they can contact a doctor to determine whether it is shingles or something else. A doctor will be able to provide a diagnosis and safe treatment options.
It is important to contact a doctor as soon as possible if a person thinks they have shingles, as treatment is
People will also need to contact a doctor if they have a shingles rash on their face, especially if blisters appear near the eyes. Blisters around the eye area
It is rare for shingles to cause any complications for a fetus during pregnancy.
Contacting a doctor as soon as possible, and no longer than
Shingles can sometimes cause long lasting nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). People can talk with a doctor if they think they have PHN. PHN will typically ease over time.
If a person develops chickenpox during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of serious complications. If a person comes into contact with chickenpox during pregnancy and does not have immunity, receiving treatment within 10 days of the contact can help treat the infection and reduce the risk.
VZV causes chickenpox and shingles. In people who have had chickenpox, VZV can reactivate later in life and cause shingles.
VZV can transmit through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of a shingles rash.
If a person is pregnant and has not had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine, it is important that they avoid people who have shingles.
A person must contact a doctor as soon as possible after developing a rash that could be shingles. Prompt treatment may help reduce the pain and duration of shingles.
A doctor will be able to prescribe antivirals that are safe to take during pregnancy. It is rare for shingles to affect the fetus during pregnancy.